The administration and its critics are divided over Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to walk out of a game between the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts after players knelt during the national anthem.
President Trump initially tweeted that he asked Pence to leave the stadium should any players kneel, fueling speculation that Pence’s actions may have been more of a stunt. The speculation continued after Pence quickly shared an official statement and a pool of journalists revealed that a staffer instructed them to stay outside of the stadium in the event of “an early departure from the game.”
By Monday, Trump and others in the administration pushed back against the characterization of the vice president’s actions. Senior White House counsel Kellyanne Conway told “FOX & Friends” that calling Pence’s actions a political stunt “is truly outrageous, egregious, and offensive.” Trump also combated the criticism by tweeting that Pence’s trip to Indianapolis was “long planned.”
But critics have tacked on another wave of criticism to address the taxpayer cost of Pence’s protest, and it’s for something that Trump himself has publicly criticized in the past.
CNN calculated that the cost of Pence’s airfare for the trip, which does not even account for personnel or Secret Service, was an estimated $242,500. Many expressed concern over the cost of Pence’s walkout. One critic pointed out that the cost of Pence’s walkout was enough to pay for the average American home in 39 states, while another observed that the vice president spent more than his annual salary to make the trip.
Just last month, Trump criticized former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in the wake of a damning report that he used taxpayer dollars to travel on private jets. Trump told reporters “I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.” Price resigned shortly after.