CNN is hosting a town hall event with former Vice President Mike Pence tonight, as he’s gone on a media tour promoting his new book while teasing a potential 2024 presidential run. The question is, which Mike Pence will be speaking tonight? The man outraged that his former political partner, then-President Donald Trump, set a lynch mob against him and attempted to overthrow American democracy, or the partisan Republican who claims he was part of a successful administration and still makes excuses for Trump himself?
A lot depends on the intended audience, and what his interviewers want to talk about on any given day.
Pence appeared in an interview broadcast Monday on ABC News, an appearance that made waves in the mainstream press for Pence’s supposed denunciation of Trump. The interview began with Pence recalling the morning of January 6, 2021 and a phone call in which Trump repeated his unconstitutional demand for Pence to unilaterally refuse to count Electoral College votes following then-President Elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Interviewer David Muir further discussed the findings of the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, pointing out that Trump knew that the crowd he had assembled for his rally was armed before he sent them to the Capitol.
Pence was blunt in his appraisal of Trump’s behavior at the time. “The president’s words were reckless, and his actions were reckless,” Pence said. “The president’s words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol Building.”
But after Pence told Muir that Trump had “decided to be part of the problem” on January 6, he made very different comments in an interview Monday with Fox News host Sean Hannity — a Republican operative who was also known as Trump’s “shadow” chief of staff. This time, Pence blamed unnamed “legal advisers” who had given Trump the wrong idea about the vice president’s supposed authority to reject the election results, rather than actually placing responsibility with Trump for leading an attempted coup as the sitting president of the United States.
Pence also appeared Wednesday morning on Fox & Friends, during which he boasted, “My book has actually been described as the most fulsome defense of the Trump/Pence administration record that’s been written.” He further added, “Look, the administration didn’t end well, but I couldn’t be more proud of the record of our administration.”
It is also possible that CNN may address other topics during the town hall, as host and moderator Jake Tapper, along with the live studio audience, ask questions on an array of issues. Those questions might reveal more about yet another side of Pence, as a person who regularly espouses unpopular, right-wing views. This was the case Tuesday during an appearance with talk radio host and Washington Post columnist Hugh Hewitt, a host who openly avoids talking about January 6.
Hewitt stated on the show that he would personally vote for the upcoming bill in the Senate to affirm same-sex marriage rights. In response, Pence touted his record as governor of Indiana, when he passed a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he said “was mischaracterized by the national media and the political left in the country as somehow a license to discriminate.” (The law in fact required a major fix, which the business community demanded, to prevent it from functioning directly as a license to discriminate against same-sex couples.)
Upon further questioning by Hewitt about the current bill in the Senate, Pence declared: “I would vote my values if I was in the Congress of the United States. And that is, I believe marriage is between one man and one woman.” (Pence’s anti-LGBTQ “values” fly in the face of overwhelming public support for marriage equality.)
Later in the interview, Pence also endorsed Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) bill for a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks, even after Hewitt himself described it as “a horrible idea,” saying that such bans should be left for states to decide rather than the federal government. Pence further touted the near-total ban on abortion in his home state of Indiana, which he said he hoped to see duplicated throughout the entire country, despite the Indiana law being placed on hold by the state’s supreme court.
“I’ve been very heartened, including in the state of Indiana and the progress that we’ve seen in state legislatures around America,” Pence said. “Look, it may take us as long to restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in all 50 states, as it took us to overturn Roe versus Wade. But there is no more important issue than the cause of life.”