Vice President Mike Pence’s departure from the Indianapolis Colts game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday was planned well in advance with President Donald Trump, and the trip cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In a tweet on Monday morning, Trump acknowledged planning the response to NFL players protesting the national anthem.
“The trip by @VP Pence was long planned,” the president tweeted. “He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!”
On Sunday, Trump said in a tweet that he had asked Pence to make the move.
“I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen,” Trump tweeted..
Pence was in Las Vegas on Saturday to participate in a memorial prayer walk honoring the victims of the mass shooting at an outdoor country music concert. He planned to attend a fundraiser Sunday in California.
In between, the former Indiana governor flew to Indianapolis. His office said the trip was planned weeks ago because the vice president wanted to attend a ceremony honoring Peyton Manning. He left when several 49ers knelt during the national anthem.
Pence explained his actions in a statement.
“I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag or our National Anthem.” he said. “At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.”
Prior to the game, Pence tweeted that he was looking forward to cheering for the Colts.
The picture he attached to the tweet, however, was the same picture he had tweeted from a 2014 Colts game, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, noted the cost to taxpayers of Pence’s gesture.
The trip to Indianapolis on Air Force 2 cost about $100,000, CNN calcuated. The subsequent trip to Los Angeles for a fundraiser cost an additional $142,500. Some of that will be reimbursed by the Republican National Committee. If Pence had skipped the Indianapolis trip and gone directly from Las Vegas to L.A. it would have cost about $45,000, the news network said.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway called it “egregious” for anyone to claim that Pence pulled a “political stunt” by leaving the NFL game early, according to Fox News.