Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the newly minted vice presidential running mate of Donald Trump, is one of the most extreme members of the Republican party. His record in Congress, as well as his record as governor, bears that out. The so-called “religious freedom” law passed by the Indiana state legislature and signed by Pence is probably the most well-known example of how out of the mainstream Pence is. But in 2004 Pence proved that he was so extreme in his beliefs that he was willing to throw the widow of THE Republican icon of the 20th century under the bus.
The setting was June 10, 2004. Pence, who was at the time a congressman from Indiana, was one of several speakers at an event called “The Future of Conservatism.” The gathering, hosted by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, was aimed at college-age conservatives. And it was held a mere five days after the death of Ronald Reagan, who had succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Pence spoke for almost half an hour and spent most of that time sounding like a preacher delivering a sermon rather than a congressman. He talked a great deal about Reagan, but a great deal more about Jesus and his personal Christian faith. And then it happened. Before Reagan’s casket had even been lowered into the ground, Pence attacked his still grieving widow, Nancy. Why? Because she dared to advocate for stem cell research, which at that time was already showing promise in finding treatments for Alzheimer’s.
After the congressman had finished his sermon, the floor was opened for questions from the budding right-wingers in the audience. The first one came from a young woman who identified herself as working for Oklahoma Republican Congressman Tom Cole.
The woman starts by observing that Reagan had endured a long struggle before his death and that this would be the beginning of his legacy. She notes that she was born shortly after Reagan’s election, and asks Pence,
As the next generation coming up, what do we do, what do we put in place so that the words and the actions of President Reagan aren’t perverted or changed — that perceptions aren’t changed later on when there’s nobody here that lived with him, and through him and during this whole time.. What can we do as a generation for the future so that they remember President Reagan as such a wonderful president, like we do now?
Before Pence has a chance to answer, Schlafly jumps in front of him, spouting off about “tenured left-wing history professors” who she says “are gonna write the wrong history.” Then Pence gets his turn. He says,
Continue the work. The greatest tribute we can do. Demonstrate the same courage. Stand for the same things.
OK, that was the expected, appropriate reaction. But then this “Christian” extremist nutjob couldn’t help himself, and launched into an attack on Nancy Reagan, who a few years before had announced her support for stem cell research.
“There’s a battle right around the corner on stem cell research,” Pence says. He continues by saying that he doesn’t fault Reagan’s family and then counters that sentiment with one of the biggest little words in the world: but.
But those who would erode the sanctity of human life in the law, by advancing embryonic stem cell research in the name of Ronald Reagan would do more to desecrate his memory than I could possibly imagine. He was devoted to the sanctity of human life, and we need to continue, within our party, and within our country, to courageously advance those same ideals that he advanced, and that’s the greatest tribute we can pay.
This is the man Donald Trump picked to be one step away from the presidency — a man who was willing to attack the widow of the most revered Republican president in modern history almost before her husband’s body was cold.
Here are Mike Pence’s comments about stem cell research and Nancy Reagan, via C-SPAN:
Featured image via screen capture