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Mike Pence Bans Voice of America Reporter from Air Force Two Over Alleged Off-The-Record Violation

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Vice President Mike Pence’s office banned a Voice of America reporter from traveling on Air Force Two, claiming the reporter violated an off-the-record agreement on an April 28 trip to the Mayo Clinic, the outlet announced on Friday.

Pence ignited controversy after visiting the clinic in Rochester, Minnesota without wearing a mask. His wife, Karen Pence, defended him in a Thursday interview, saying it was “actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out that they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask.” She added, “Medical experts have told us wearing a mask prevents you from spreading the disease, and knowing that he doesn’t have COVID -19, he didn’t wear one.”

Voice of America’s White House reporter, Steve Herman, subsequently claimed on Twitter that visitors to the clinic had been told by the vice president’s office that masks were in fact required. “All of us who traveled with him were notified by the office of @VP the day before the trip that wearing of masks was required by the @MayoClinic and to prepare accordingly.”

It isn’t clear whether the vice president’s staff informed Pence of the requirement.

The memo Herman referenced was a planning document. Confidentiality is typically applied to such documents for security purposes rather than for political reasons. In a statement to The Washington Post, Pence’s office said it had not finalized the decision to ban Herman from future events, but that it would welcome an apology from Herman or his employer.

In a statement to Mediaite, VOA declined to address the situation, but insisted it adheres to “the highest journalist standards.”

Herman himself retweeted a post rejecting the notion that planning documents sent to the press are not off the record.

Off-the-record agreements are commonly used by reporters seeking candid access to elected officials, but they have been more controversial and occasionally violated during the Trump administration. President Donald Trump sparred with The New York Times in 2018 over the violation of an agreement after meeting with Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger. Anthony Scaramucci was infamously fired in 2017 after serving for 10 days as White House communications director when The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza published comments that Scaramucci said were intended to be off the record.

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