Voice of America Reporter Says He Was Banned From Air Force Two Over Report on Mike Pence’s Maskless Mayo Clinic Visit

Vice president’s office says advance planning document sent to press detailing Mayo’s mask rules was “off the record”

Mike Pence

Voice of America’s Steve Herman said he was banned from Vice President Mike Pence’s Air Force Two after tweeting information that contradicted a public statement from Second Lady Karen Pence Thursday.

Here’s what happened: In an interview with Fox News Thursday, the second lady said the vice president didn’t wear a mask during a tour of Mayo Clinic earlier in the week because he hadn’t been told about the hospital requirement that he do so. That contradicted what Mayo Clinic said prior, which was that the hospital had made his team aware of the requirement, as well as what Pence himself had said, which was that he’d wanted to look those on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight “in the eyes.”

Herman, the VOA White House bureau chief, then tweeted, “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.”

He later tweeted a follow-up in the form of a link to a Washington Post article that reported he’d been threatened with punishment from Pence’s staff for “the off-the-record terms of a planning memo that had been sent to him and other reporters in advance of Pence’s trip.” He told the Post that he’d been banned from Air Force Two, while a VOA spokesperson said the conversation with the vice president’s office was still ongoing.

Representatives for Pence did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment. A VOA spokesperson sent this: “VOA adheres to the highest journalist standards. The VOA Charter, adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1976 and signed by President Gerald Ford, requires VOA news to ‘be accurate, objective, and comprehensive’ and that includes truthful coverage of the U.S. government and its policies. VOA’s credibility relies on presenting ‘a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions,’ as the Charter states.”

The VOA spokesperson declined to comment further.

On Twitter, Herman retweeted a post refuting the idea that planning documents are sensitive or off-the-record.