Without missing a beat, outlets across the country began running with a “hot mic” story about Vice President Mike Pence allegedly delivering empty boxes of personal protective equipment to a rehabilitation center in Alexandria, Virginia. The problem, though, is it’s easily proven false.
Late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel first ran the deceptively edited clip, purportedly showing Pence admitting he was carrying empty boxes to the entrance of the Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center “just for the camera.”
But one second after Kimmel’s team trimmed the video, it’s obvious Pence was joking. After he had already carted several full boxes of PPE to the entrance of the rehab center, Pence returned to the delivery truck to carry more containers. When the vice president reached to grab more boxes, a man in uniform informed him: “Those are empty, sir. We’re good to go.” Pence then joked, “Well, can I carry the empty ones? Just for the camera.” The man laughed and replied, “Absolutely. They’re a lot easier!”
Immediately after the brief conversation, Pence closed the doors to the truck, because he was very obviously joking.
The boxes Pence delivered — for which the rehab center thanked him — were clearly full of PPE.
Nevertheless, journalists all across the fruited plain were more than happy to let Jimmy Kimmel’s team do their work for them. Unfortunately, it was shoddy work at best.
MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell shared the clip without any due diligence on her part, writing, “What can we say? Fake photo op?” Other media types simply retweeted the clip sans any context.
It seems the lesson here, which several reporters and news outlets apparently (and sadly) didn’t already know, is you probably shouldn’t let a late-night show host do your journalism for you.
According to The Hill, Pence was in Alexandra with FEMA workers to help deliver part of a shipment of 63 million gloves, 14 million masks, 13 million gowns, and just over one million pieces of eye protection equipment.