President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is already fundraising off of Vice President Mike Pence’s early exit from Sunday’s NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers.
Pence left the game after roughly 20 49ers players took a knee during the national anthem. In a statement following his early exit from the game, he said he left “because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem.”
In an email with the subject line “VP under fire for standing for ???????? ,” the Trump campaign wrote that the 49ers’ “stunt showed the world that they don’t believe our flag is worth standing for.”
“But your Vice President REFUSED to dignify their disrespect for our anthem, our flag, and the many brave soldiers who have died for their freedoms,” the email continued.
“Friend, I was so proud of the Vice President. But immediately after the Vice President’s honorable display of leadership and patriotism, the Fake News Media relentlessly ATTACKED him. The media is NOT going to win this fight, because we have the AMERICAN PEOPLE standing on our side.”
“Please make a contribution of at least $US5 to show your support, and our team will send you an ‘I STAND FOR THE FLAG’ sticker,” the email, which was signed “Donald J. Trump,” continued.
The campaign solicited contributions of $US35, $US50, $US75, $US100, and $US250 in the email.
Pence came under fire after exiting the Colts game despite the cost of the trip to and from Indianapolis, which estimates put at hundreds of thousands of dollars. His office insisted that the trip was planned far in advance because former Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning was set to be honored at the game. The vice president added the Las Vegas trip, however, after the mass shooting that took place there last Sunday night.
Shortly after Pence exited the game, Trump tweeted that he “asked” the vice president to leave if any player knelt during the anthem.
Of note, it was a 49ers player, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who first knelt during the national anthem as a way of protesting the treatment of black Americans in the US. Some 49ers players have continued to take a knee during the anthem since Kaepernick, who is no longer with the team, first did almost two full seasons ago.
Eric Reid, a safety on the 49ers, said after the game that Pence’s early exit looked “like a PR stunt to me.”
“He knew our team has had the most players protest,” he said. “He knew that we were probably going to do it again.”
The White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, took issue with those calling Pence’s move a “political stunt” during a Monday interview with the Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends.”
“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 sounding of our great nation — to call that a political stunt is truly outrageous, egregious, and offensive,” she said.
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