Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, said that the criticism Vice President Mike Pence has received after he left a Sunday NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after dozens of players knelt during the national anthem is “outrageous, egregious, and offensive.”
“It takes a lot to get that man’s blood boiling,” Conway said of Pence on Monday’s “Fox & Friends.” “And to refer to someone who’s standing up for the flag and all it represents to hundreds of millions of Americans and all it signals to the world, our veterans, our unity, the founding of our great nation — to call that a political stunt is truly outrageous, egregious, and offensive.”
Pence, who flew from Nevada to Indianapolis on Sunday to attend the game before flying back to California for a fundraising event, said that while the players, who are protesting racial injustice, are “entitled to their own opinions,” he doesn’t think “it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem.”
“I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence tweeted before releasing an official statement and a photo of himself and the second lady standing at the game for the anthem.
Pence was criticised by lawmakers and prominent voices across the political spectrum, many of whom argued the act was a costly stunt orchestrated by Trump, who tweeted on Sunday that he had directed Pence and the second lady to leave the game if protests occurred. Pence likely knew he would leave the game early, given that the 49ers have consistently protested over the past few months.
Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called the move a “manipulation of faux patriotism.”
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted, “After all the scandals involving unnecessarily expensive travel by cabinet secretaries, how much taxpayer money was wasted on this stunt?”
Conway insisted that Pence’s attendance at the game “has been on the books for a very long time,” but did not specify exactly when the trip was planned.
She reiterated Trump’s argument that the NFL protests, which began more than a year ago when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the anthem in protest of police brutality, “disparage[s] the brave men and women in uniform” and American values more broadly.
She added that American public opinion on the issue likely swayed Trump and Pence to continue speaking out.
“I’m sure the president and the vice president also see that the polls are on their side,” Conway said.
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