Politics

Vice President Mike Pence torched after jokingly asking to carry empty boxes at nursing home 'just for the camera'

Key Points
  • Vice President Mike Pence got roasted after being caught by a live microphone jokingly offering to carry empty boxes into a nursing home treating coronavirus cases.
  • "Well, can I carry the empty ones? Just for the camera?" Pence said during a photo opportunity in Virginia.
  • President Donald Trump earlier this week snapped back at a nurse who said during an Oval Office event that in her experience the supply of PPE during the coronavirus outbreak has been "sporadic."
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VP Mike Pence delivers boxes to nursing home in Virginia

Mike Pence, meet hot mic.

The vice president got roasted on Twitter, on TV and by the campaign of Joe Biden after being caught by a live microphone jokingly offering to carry empty boxes "just for the camera" into a nursing home treating coronavirus cases.

The offer, seemingly made in jest, came during a photo opportunity for media on Thursday at the the Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Alexandria, Virginia. This happened a day before a Pence aide tested positive for coronavirus, and on the same day that news broke that a personal valet for President Donald Trump also tested positive for the virus, which causes Covid-19.

Video stills show Vice President Mike Pence at a health facility in Arlington, VA on May 7th, 2020.
CSPAN

During the visit, Pence did lug some boxes off a van which appeared to contain something to the front door of the health facility, which was about 15 feet away.

With him was Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Pence, who like other visitors outside the facility was not wearing a mask, at one point walked back to the van after several round trips, where there were some other cardboard boxes remaining.

"Those are empty, sir," Pence was told by a worker, according to video.

Pence replies, "Well, can I carry the empty ones? Just for the camera?" drawing laughter from people around him.

The worker replied: "Absolutely."

"They're a lot easier," the worker added.

But Pence didn't actually carry the empty boxes, video shows.

He closed the van door and then walked away.

Video stills show Vice President Mike Pence at a health facility in Arlington, VA on May 7th, 2020.
CSPAN

ABC late night show host Jimmy Kimmel unloaded on Pence for even making the empty offer, which the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" star featured on his show Thursday night.

"Mike Pence pretending to carry empty boxes of PPEs into a hospital is the perfect metaphor for who he is and what he's doing: A big box of nothing, delivering another box of nothing," Kimmel cracked.

Kimmel later Friday posted a backhanded apology to Pence on Twitter, writing, "It would appear that @vp was joking about carrying empty boxes for a staged publicity stunt."

"The full video reveals that he was carrying full boxes for a staged publicity stunt. My apologies. I know how dearly this administration values truth," Kimmel wote.

A spokesman for the Democratic presidential campaign of Biden ripped Pence for the comment in a scathing Twitter post.

"No, Mike Pence, the health care heroes on the frontlines don't need you to carry the empty boxes 'just for the camera,'" wrote the spokesman, Matt Hill.

"There are more than 75,000 Americans dead, so they don't need your jokes — they need the personal protective equipment that is going to save lives.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-New Jersey, tweeted, "You would be hardpressed to find a better metaphor for the comically malicious incompetence of this failed government."

A spokeswoman for the vice president did not immediately respond to a request from CNBC for comment on the video.

Pence's photo op came as nursing homes have been desperately asking for PPE from the federal government.

Video stills show Vice President Mike Pence at a health facility in Arlington, VA on May 7th, 2020.
CSPAN

Trump last week announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would this month begin sending two shipments of the protective gear to each of the U.S.'s more than 15,000 nursing homes.

However, each of those shipments is providing just one seven-day supply of PPE.

NBC News has reported that industry executives call that amount "wholly insufficient" to the needs of nursing homes.

Trump earlier this week snapped at a nurse who said during an Oval Office event that in her experience the supply of PPE during the coronavirus outbreak has been "sporadic."

"Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people," Trump told her.

On Friday, a Trump administration official said that a member of Pence's staff has tested positive for coronavirus.

Pence drew heavy criticism last week for not wearing a mask during a tour of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, despite a requirement there that all staff, patients and visitors wear masks.

He did wear a mask two days later during a visit to a General Motors factory making ventilators in his home state of Indiana.

Trump, during a visit to a Honeywell factory in Arizona this week, did not wear a mask, despite signs mandating that workers there wear one at at times. That factory is making millions of n95 masks for the Defense Department.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged all Americans to wear a mask while in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus.