WASHINGTON– Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday slammed former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riots in the US Capitol, widening the rift between the two men as they prepare to battle for the Republican nomination in the general election prepare for next year.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said during a speech at the annual White-Tie Gridiron Dinner attended by politicians and journalists. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone in the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Pence’s comments were the harshest condemnation yet of the once-loyal lieutenant, who has often shied away from confronting his former boss. Trump has already declared his candidacy. Pence didn’t, but he laid the groundwork to run.
In the days leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, Trump pressured Pence to reverse President Joe Biden’s election victory when he presided over the confirmation ceremony of the results. Pence refused, and as rioters stormed the Capitol, some chanted they wanted to “hang Mike Pence.”
The House committee investigating the attack said in its final report that “the President of the United States had instigated a mob hunting his own Vice President.”
With his comments, Pence cemented his place in a broader debate within the Republican Party about how to view the attack. For example, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy recently provided Tucker Carlson with an archive of Jan. 6 security camera footage that the Fox News host used to downplay the day’s events and promote conspiracy theories.
“Make no mistake, what happened that day was a disgrace,” Pence said in his Gridiron Dinner remarks. “And it makes a mockery of decency to portray it any other way.”
Trump, meanwhile, has continued to spread lies about his election defeat. He has even spoken out for the rioters, saying he would consider pardoning them if he were re-elected.
Speeches at the Gridiron Dinner are usually humorous affairs, with politicians making fun of one another, and Pence has done a lot of that, too.
He joked that Trump’s ego was so fragile that he wanted his vice president to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” — one of the lines reads, “Did you ever know you were my hero?” — during their weekly luncheons.
He shot Trump again because of secret documents.
“I read that some of these classified documents that they found at Mar-a-Lago are actually in the President’s Bible,” Pence said. “Which proves he had absolutely no idea they were there.”
Before dinner was over, Pence was criticized for his jokes about Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member in US history.
Pence mentioned that despite travel issues plaguing Americans, Buttigieg took “maternity leave” after he and his husband adopted newborn twins.
“Pete is the only person in the history of mankind who has had a child, and everyone else gets postpartum depression,” Pence said. ___
Megerian reported from Wilmington, Delaware.