Vice President Mike Pence’s early departure from an NFL game last year because of players kneeling during the national anthem was very likely staged and also expensive for taxpayers, according to a new report.
The former Indiana governor visited Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Oct. 8, 2017, with the stated intention of being on hand as Peyton Manning’s jersey was retired at halftime of the Colts’ game against the San Francisco 49ers.
But he didn’t stick around long enough for that ceremony or any part of the game.
Pence stood with hand over heart for the playing of the national anthem prior to the game. At the same time, several 49ers players knelt on the sideline, continuing the protest against social injustice started by former teammate Colin Kaepernick.
So Pence left the game, stating later on Twitter, “I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem” and “I stand with @POTUS Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.”
Trump then tweeted “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”
The Huffington Post reported Saturday that receipts and folios recently released by the Department of Homeland Security indicate that Pence’s trip ran up more than $75,000 in expenses, including hotel and travel costs and additional security measures.
The article also took into account a Washington Post report from last year that indicated the use of Air Force Two for the trip would have cost an additional $250,000, bringing the total cost of Pence’s excursion to more than $325,000.
The Huffington Post goes on to suggest that dates and times listed on the documents provide evidence that the trip may have been a hastily planned publicity stunt about the protests during the anthem, rather than one that had been long-planned for the Manning ceremony.
Temporary downtown walkways ($2,368) deployed for Pence’s visit were ordered from a rental company only two days before the game and scheduled to be removed at 4 p.m. on Sunday, hardly enough time for someone to view a 1 p.m. NFL game in its entirety and then depart. A Pence staffer did inform pool reporters in advance that Pence might leave the game early, but did not indicate a specific time.
Also, according to the report, a lodging addendum for the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Airport was signed three days before the game. There is one paper addressed to the hotel that was dated Sept. 13, but it’s so heavily redacted that the Huffington Post said that “it’s unclear if it’s related to Pence’s trip or even that it’s a Secret Service document at all.”