Mike Pence Condemns Tucker Carlson’s Portrayal Of January 6th, Says History “Will Hold Donald Trump Accountable” For That Day
UPDATED: Former Vice President Mike Pence was one of the featured speakers at the white-tie Gridiron Club dinner in Washington on Saturday, an event that typically is a showcase of biting humor.
But speaking to the crowd of about 600 journalists, administration officials and lawmakers, Pence turned serious at the end of his monologue, this time to condemn Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s downplaying of the attack on the Capitol on January 6. He also used his strongest language yet to criticize Donald Trump’s conduct on that day.
Pence didn’t call out Carlson by name, but chided his characterization of January 6th rioters as “sightseers.”
“January 6 was a tragic day for him. I was there at the Capitol, and let me assure you it was not, as some would have us believe, a matter of tourists peacefully enjoying our Capitol.”
He added, “Tourists don’t injure 140 police officers by sightseeing. Tourists don’t break down doors to get to the Speaker of the House. Or voice threats against public officials. The American people have a right to know what took place at the Capitol on January 6. I expect members of Fourth Estate to continue to do their job. Make no mistake about it — what happened that day was a disgrace and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way.”
Pence recounted his experience at the Capitol that day, as he refused Secret Service pleas to leave the complex to ensure his safety.
“When I was escorted off the Senate floor Secret Service told me that I had to leave the building,” Pence said. “But I was determined to stay. I believed that law enforcement would soon have the situation in hand, never imagining what would unfurl, would occur. But it was there in that small office just off the Senate chamber, there was a small television set, and we watched what was unfolding outside — the mayhem and the rioting. You could hear it echoing outside, and soon thereafter in the hallways.”
He added, “I always told my kids that the safest place in the world is to be in the center of God’s will. I knew where we were supposed to be, doing what we were supposed to be doing.”
Pence then said that Trump’s conduct put his family in danger.
”I was not afraid but I was angry. President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable” for what happened.
Pence told Deadline afterward that he made the remarks about Carlson because he was concerned about “that narrative taking hold,” meaning the Fox News host’s effort to minimize the severity of the attack.
Pence said that as the riot worsened on January 6th, his lead Secret Service detail came in for a third time, speaking “with greater urgency in his voice, saying that we need to leave the building. But I felt resolved. The more he insisted the more I did. I finally put my finger in his chest and I said, ‘You’re not hearing. I’m not leaving. I’m not giving those people the sight of a 16-car motorcade speeding away from the Capitol.’ “
Pence also praised the news media, telling the crowd that “we were able to stay in our post [at the Capitol] in part because you stayed in your post. The American people know what happened that day because you never stopped reporting. Your work inspired our actions and the actions of all the elected officials who reconvened the very same day and turned a day of tragedy into a triumph of freedom.”
The former vice president, who is considering a 2024 presidential bid, received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks.
Most of the dinner is devoted to song and dance satire from its journalist members and humor from Republican and Democratic speakers — this time Pence, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The motto is singe, not burn, although there were plenty of jokes about George Santos, Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy that had a wicked bite.
Some of the best zingers were self-deprecating. Pence opened his remarks “with a word of prayer.” The room grew silent for a few seconds before he said, “Just kidding.”
“There’s this idea that I am some kind of religious nut,” Pence said. “I mean, just ask my sons: Jedediah, Obadiah and Zacariah.”
“I am a man of deep faith. In fact, my preferred pronouns are thou and thine.”
Then he got in a few jokes about his former boss.
“I do try to share my faith. I once invited President Trump to a Bible study. That was an experience. He really liked the passages about smiting and perishing of thine enemies. As he put it, ‘You know Mike, there’s some really good stuff in there’,” Pence said, doing a bit of an impression of Trump.
“Which reminds me. I read that some of those classified documents they found in Mar-a-Lago were actually stuck in the president’s Bible. Which proves he had absolutely no idea.”
“Honestly, I learned a lot working beside Donald Trump — like subpoenas, for instance.”
Pence is fighting a subpoena issued by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, who is seeking his testimony about January 6.
In his comedy material about Trump, Pence also did his best Bette Midler and Wing Beneath My Wings. “People are often curious whether his ego was as delicate as it appeared,” Pence said. “Not really. Although before our weekly luncheons, he actually liked me to sing one of his favorite songs. Did you every know that you’re my hero? You’re everything I would like to be.
After his remarks at the dinner, Pence was asked what it was like coming up with the jokes. “It was brutal,” he quipped.
One of Pence’s jokes about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who he knew when he was mayor of South Bend, were seen by some as going a bit too far. Pence said, “He took two months maternity leave, whereupon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports. The air traffic system shut down. And airplanes nearly collided on our runways. Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression.” Buttigieg’s adopted twins were born prematurely.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who also was at the dinner, said in a statement to The Washington Blade that the joke was “offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline.” Chasten Buttigieg, Pete Buttigieg’s husband, wrote to Pence, “after your attempted joke this weekend. If your grandchild was born prematurely and placed on a ventilator at two months old – their tiny fingers wrapped around yours as the monitors beep in the background – where would you be?”
President Joe Biden was invited to the dinner, but did not attend, instead sent Blinken to represent the administration with stand-up material. “I am apparently the first Secretary of State in modern history to do this job while my wife and I are raising toddlers. So I hear a lot about ice cream and fast cars and choo choo trains, and that’s being in the Oval Office with President Biden.”
Blinken got in some quips about media. “Now, according to the guest list, there are 600 attendees here tonight. CNN would kill for an audience like that.”
His humor also included a singe at Fox News, grappling with the Dominion lawsuit release of thousands of pages of emails and text messages showing that personalities and executives doubted Trump’s unfounded election claims yet allowed them to be amplified on air.
“Seriously, though, it is wonderful to be with so many journalists who are dedicated to reporting the truth or, if you are Fox, privately texting it,” Blinken said.
He also got in a zinger about Pence. “The vice president and I have one thing in common: Neither of us will ever be president.” After some ooohs, Blinken said, “OK, that’s a little unfair. I still got some gas left in the tank.”
The event at the Omni Shoreham Hotel drew figures ranging from Bill Nye to Joint Chiefs Of Staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Unlike the larger White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, to be held in April, the Gridiron does not allow cameras at the event, which dates to 1885.
As is tradition, at the end of the evening all attendees lock arms and sing Auld Lang Syne.
The skits included a production number spoofing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as Captain Hook facing a cast of Disney characters, singing It’s DeLovely.
I feel a sudden urge to slay
A few more DIS-ney animals to-DAY
So, control your desire to grouse
While I crucify this mouse
Though these THREE may look quite CUDD-le-Y
I fear they’re ir-re-deem-a-BLY PC
If you DON’T like “DON’T say gay”
My next cam-PAIGN — will DRIVE you in-SANE
Cuz when I run, in twenty-four
I’ll bus some more immi-GRANTS up north
Another skit satirized Don Lemon and Nikki Haley, to the tune of Past Your Prime from L’il Abner.
Some of the lyrics:
Lemon: You’re past your prime
Haley: It’s a shame
Lemon: And you’re outta time
Haley: Guess my old clock’s run down
Lemon: Fifty-one this year
Haley: My, what a wasted life
Lemon: End of your career
Haley: That cuts just like a knife
Lemon: You’re past your peak
Haley: I’m an early antique
Lemon: Such an old physique
Haley: Just hear my old bones creak
Lemon: Where there was a glow
Haley: There ain’t a glow no more
Lemon: Now the wrinkles show
Haley: But have you looked at Joe?
Lemon: How CAN you dare against those OCTogenarians
Haley: Oh me oh my
Lemon: At fifty one you’re such a hag
Haley: A girl in THIS position COULD lose her disposition
Lemon: Oh me oh my
BOTH: You just make me gag gag gag
Haley: Don, you’ve crossed the line
Lemon: What a mean thing to say
Haley: Your job’s ON the line
Lemon: I just need time away
Haley: You will learn in time
Lemon: That girls still have a spine
BOTH: When they’re past their prime!