But in so doing, he also sought to rewrite some history.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier, a seat at the table and I think he should apologize for it,” Pence said in an interview with NewsNation.
So far, so good. But then Pence went on.
“I don’t believe Donald Trump is an antisemite. I don’t believe he’s a racist or a bigot,” said Pence. “I would not have been his vice president if he was.”
Which, well, that is honestly pretty debatable.
* After White nationalists provoked a violent clash in 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump said there were “very fine people, on both sides.”
* Trump decried immigrants coming to the US from “shithole countries” during a meeting with lawmakers in 2018.
* Trump has repeatedly referred to Covid-19 as the “kung flu” and the “China virus.”
* Trump propagated the lie that Barack Obama was not actually born in the United States and therefore was ineligible to be president. Trump has also falsely suggested that Kamala Harris was not eligible to be vice president.
* In his presidential campaign announcement speech in 2015, Trump insisted that Mexico was sending “rapists” who were “bringing crime” and “bringing drugs” into the US.
* Trump said that a federal judge of Mexican descent couldn’t be impartial about a case because of his supposed animosity about Trump’s plan to build a wall on the southern border. (The judge was born in Indiana.)
* Trump referred to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” amid a controversy about her claims of Native American heritage.
* Trump initially refused to condemn former KKK official David Duke, who endorsed his presidential campaign. (Trump later said he didn’t hear the question properly and that he had disavowed Duke “the day before [he was asked] at a major conference.”)
* Trump tweeted that four minority members of the Democratic House caucus should “go back” to the countries they were from. Three of the four were born in the United States.
* Trump once described an attempt to impeach him as a “lynching.”
* Asked about the Proud Boys, a White nationalist group, during a 2020 general election debate, Trump told the group to “stand back and stand by.”
There’s more – a lot more – but you get the gist.
For years, Trump has trafficked in racial stereotypes, both in and out of office. Most of the comments above happened while Trump was in the White House and Pence was serving as vice president.
It’s impossible to look at that record and not conclude – at the very least – that Trump was more than willing to engage in bigoted language and racist tropes for what he perceived to be his own personal political benefit.
Pence’s comments on Monday are an attempt to paper over his own role in aiding and abetting Trump’s behavior in the White House. The simple fact is that Pence was a loyal second in command, regularly defending Trump from his various self-created controversies.
Pence’s desire for revisionist history is understandable. Following his refusal to go along with Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election results, Pence has fallen out with Trump. Trump is now running for president a third time, while Pence is taking steps toward a bid of his own.
But the record reflected above is clear: Trump’s decision to meet with a White nationalist is not the exception but the rule during his time in public life. And that very much includes the years that Pence was at his side.