Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel took shots at Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith during a joke about President Donald Trump’s decision to put Pence in charge of the government’s response to the spread of the coronavirus.
“Why is Mike Pence in charge?” Kimmel asked. “What is his plan to stop the virus? Abstinence? I think Trump might be trying to kill him. I really do.”
The quip was a knock against Pence’s Christian tradition, which calls for abstinence from sex outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.
He also crudely joked about Pence’s loyalty to Trump, saying, “I hope the virus isn’t spread by kissing ass, because if it is, they’ve got the wrong guy.”
Pence was criticized for his handling of an HIV outbreak in Indiana in 2015. Two months passed before he declared a state of emergency. The spread of the disease was attributed to people sharing needles to inject themselves with Opana, an addictive painkiller. As governor, Pence wasn’t initially supportive of the federal government’s suggestion to distribute clean needles because, he said at the time, “I don’t believe effective anti-drug policy involves handing out drug paraphernalia.”
After prayer, he ultimately came on board.
He has also been criticized for reportedly telling CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer in 2002 that he was saddened to hear then-Secretary of State Colin Powell encourage condom use to quell the spread of STDs. At the time, the White House was pushing abstinence-only education in schools.
“I just simply believe the only truly safe sex, Wolf, as the president believes, is no sex,” said Pence, who was a congressman at the time. “And we ought to, with leaders of the stature of the secretary of state, we ought to be sending a message to kids across the country and the opportunity had across the world that abstinence is the best choice for young people.”
The Trump administration’s tackling of the coronavirus — formally known as COVID-19 — comes as experts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning Americans to begin preparing for the likely spread of the virus within the country. The CDC is really just encouraging people to practice smart hygiene, avoiding those who are sick, and encouraging those who aren’t feeling well to stay home from school and/or work.