FARMVILLE, Va. ― Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), spent much of the first and only vice presidential debate Tuesday night doing his damnedest to get Americans to forget all of the offensive things Trump has said.
Pence repeatedly tried to skirt around statements Trump actually said — or simply shook his head and ignored the question.
“I’m happy to defend [Trump],” Pence said.
But Pence rarely actually defended Trump. Instead, he dodged or outright denied his running mate’s statements. Some examples:
When Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Hillary Clinton’s running mate, accused Trump of praising Russian president Vladimir Putin as a “great leader,” Pence denied it and called Putin a “small and bullying leader.” But Trump has repeatedly praised Putin.
When Kaine said that Trump recently claimed Putin was not going into Ukraine, Pence denied it. But Trump did say, “He’s not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.” Putin took the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Pence himself also recently said, “I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.”
When Kaine challenged Pence to defend Trump’s comment that more nations should get nuclear weapons, Pence said “he never said that.” But Trump did.
When Kaine pointed out that Trump had once promised to release his tax returns, Pence replied, “He said he will do it.” Trump has repeatedly said he can’t release his returns because he is being audited by the IRS. (The IRS has said nothing prevents him from releasing them.) There is absolutely no evidence that Trump will actually release his returns. His son, Donald Trump Jr., has admitted that there’s a more political reason the campaign is not releasing the returns: It would be a distraction and create too many “questions.”
Kaine said Trump wants to have a “deportation force”: “They want to go house to house, school to school, business to business, and kick out 16 million people.” Pence called Kaine’s statement “nonsense.” Last year, Trump himself used the term “deportation force” in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely. And you’re going to bring the country – and frankly, the people, because you have some excellent wonderful people, some fantastic people that have been here for a long period of time.”
Pence tried to defend Trump’s comments about Mexicans after Kaine pointed out that the GOP presidential candidate has called immigrants from the country “rapists.”
“He also said, ‘many of them are good people,’” Pence replied.
Trump’s actual quote last year was: “When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”
When Kaine said that Trump had said women should be punished for abortion, Pence said, “Donald Trump and I would never support legislation that punished women who made the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy.” But Trump did say that women who have abortions should be punished.