USA TODAY - As critics continue to call for the resignation or impeachment of President Trump, a new piece from The New Yorker discusses what it considers the dangers of Vice President Mike Pence taking the reins if the critics were to actually get their way.
In it, Pence’s anti-LGBTQ stance is highlighted, as well as a joke made by Trump to a legal scholar that the scholar shouldn’t ask Pence about gay rights because Pence wants to “hang them all.”
But the piece also talks about how Trump often mocks Pence’s religious beliefs, and recounts stories of anti-Catholic prejudice that Pence faced as a child.
In response, Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said The New Yorker piece contains false statements, and is one of the reasons the public is turning on the press.
“Articles like this are why the American people have lost so much faith in the press," Farah said in a statement to The Indianapolis Star. "The New Yorker piece is filled with unsubstantiated, unsourced claims that are untrue and offensive."
The piece, published Monday morning by Jane Mayer for the Oct. 23 issue of The New Yorker, reports on the dynamic between Trump and Pence, as well as their contrast in style and ideology.
It includes a comment from former White House strategist Steve Bannon who joked that Trump and Pence were like throwbacks from 1950s casting. He called them "Dean Martin, the bad boy of the Rat Pack, and 'the dad on Leave It to Beaver."
As far as daily life in the White House, the piece quotes sources who say that Trump often likes to "let Pence know who's boss," and that when people met with Trump after first seeing Pence, Trump asks them if Pence made them pray.
The piece also includes comments from Keith Cooper, a man convicted of and imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit 20 years ago. Pence refused to pardon Cooper before leaving office. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb would eventually pardon Cooper in February of this year.
Cooper said Pence's refusal to pardon him was all about his political career and that as a Christian, Pence is a hypocrite.
"He wouldn’t see me or speak with me," Cooper told The New Yorker. "God doesn’t turn his back on the truth, but Pence just walked away from the truth. I couldn’t move forward in life. I was stuck in a dead-end job.
"But I don’t forgive Mike Pence, and never will. He talks all this God stuff, but he’s biased. He hates Muslims, he hates gay people, and he hates minorities. He didn’t want to be the first white man in Indiana to pardon an innocent black man.”
In regards to the meeting between Trump, Pence and the legal scholar, the piece states that Trump belittled Pence's desire to overturn Roe v. Wade. After the scholar pointed out that many states would likely legalize abortion on their own if the Supreme Court did so, Trump is reported saying that Pence wasted his time and energy on something that "wouldn't end abortion anyway."
Pence's evangelical roots are also discussed. His mother said it came as a surprise to the family and told a story of how Pence admired the gold cross of one of his fraternity brothers. Pence was then told, “You have to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck.” Pence said that he attended a Christian music festival in Kentucky soon after and gave his life to Jesus.
Mayer writes that while there have been other evangelical Christians in the White House, including Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, Pence’s fundamentalism exceeds them all. She points out that in 2002, he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory,” alongside such theories as intelligent design, which argues that life on Earth is too complex to have emerged through random mutation.
Pence has also been hosting a Bible-study group for Cabinet officers in the White House, led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger who became the target of protests in 2004 after he wrote that, “Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.”
Pence's brother, Gregory, talked about life growing up in Columbus. He said that while it wasn't racist, the Pence boys faced anti-Catholic prejudice. Gregory Pence said that Protestant children threw rocks at him. Pence's mother said they were discriminated against for their beliefs.
Mayer wraps by saying that many debate if the country would be better off with Pence as president. Harold Ickes, a longtime Democratic operative, said that Democrats should hope Trump stays in office because he makes a better foil, and that Pence may be more effective at advancing the agenda of the far right.
Newt Gingrich predicts that Pence will likely be the Republican nominee in 2024. But Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, thinks Trump's baggage will hurt his chances.
Follow Justin L. Mack on Twitter: @justinlmack
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