Former Vice President Mike Pence delivered a strong rebuke to former President Donald Trump, his running mate, during the annual Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington. Pence criticized Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, calling it “a disgrace” and saying that history would hold Trump accountable.
The event is usually a lighthearted occasion for political figures, government officials, and media veterans, but Pence used the platform to address recent attempts to dismiss the seriousness of the Capitol riot. He called out conservative media commentators and Republicans in Congress who have used selective security camera footage to reframe the riot as a largely peaceful demonstration.
“Tourists don’t injure 140 police officers by sightseeing. Tourists don’t break down doors to get to the speaker of the House or voice threats against public officials,” Pence said, according to media reports.
Pence also made his reprimand of Trump personal when he said, “President Trump was wrong; I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
The timing of Pence’s remarks is significant, as Trump and his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, are the only two major declared candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, with other potential challengers, such as Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, edging closer.
Until Saturday, any rival jabs at the former president and presumed front-runner for the nomination have been implicit. Pence’s direct criticism of Trump sets a new bar for other Republicans hoping to replace him as the party’s leader.
Pence also condemned recent efforts by House Republicans on the party’s right flank to investigate the treatment of imprisoned participants in the Capitol attack. He called it a “disgrace” and criticized the selective editing of security footage.
“The American people have a right to know what took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6,” he said. “But make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way.”
Pence even joked about his presidential ambitions during the event, saying, “I will wholeheartedly, unreservedly support the Republican nominee for president in 2024. If it’s me.”