During a town hall meeting in Nevada, Mike Pence was challenged on his support for Donald Trump despite Trump’s comments over the weekend criticizing a gold star family. Pence handled the situation well, first calming the crowd and then offering his respect to the person asking the question and then to the Khan family.
“You have a son in the military, how do you tolerate his disrespect?” the woman asked, referring to Trump’s comments over the weekend criticizing Khan’s family. Before she even finished her question the crowd began to boo. Pence waved for them to settle down. “It’s all right,” Pence said adding, “Folks, that’s what freedom looks like and that’s what freedom sounds like.” This brought a round of applause.
Pence turned back toward the woman, who had taken her seat, and said, “Let me just say first I want to honor your son’s service to the country and your family’s service to the country. I truly do.” This brought another round of applause.
“I know this has been much in the news of late, in the last few days, but as I said last night as Donald Trump said Saturday night, Captain Khan is an American hero and we honor him and honor his family as we do all gold star families in this country,” Pence said.
Pence then went beyond the talking points by adding some detail. “The story of Captain Khan is an incredibly inspiring story. June 8th, 2004 he would fall in Iraq…an explosive device in a taxi,” Pence said. He continued,”He was awarded medals, posthumously, because like any great leader he…the accounts of that were that Captain Khan moved people out of the way, told them stay back and he went toward the danger.” “Honestly, again, Captain Khan is an American hero,” Pence repeated. This brought applause and cheers from the audience.
“We cherish…we cherish his family, we cherish all of our gold star families in this country,” Pence said.
Having established that he sincerely appreciated Khan’s service and offered respect for his parents, Pence then offered some words of support for Donald Trump. “The only other thing I would say to you is, having spent time with our nominee, I have never been around someone more devoted to the armed forces of this country, more devoted to the families of our soldiers, sailors, airmen marines and coast guard and no one more devoted to the veterans in this country,” Pence said. “Donald Trump supports our soldiers and supports our veterans like no other leader in my lifetime,” Pence added to cheers and applause.
This is how it’s done. Pence took a tough question that riled up the room and handled it well from beginning to end. Let’s consider the list of things he did right here:
- He respected the woman’s right to free speech.
- He reminded the audience that that’s what America sounds like, i.e. disagreement shouldn’t get shouted down in America.
- He praised the woman’s son for his service and praised the family.
- He acknowledged the controversy.
- He praised Captain Khan as a hero.
- He said we honor his family as we do all gold star families.
- He demonstrated that he sincerely respected Captain Khan’s service by recounting his story for the audience.
- He called Khan a great leader and an American hero.
- He said he cherished Khan’s gold star family.
- And then, having said all that, he actually answered the woman’s pointed question about how he can still respect Donald Trump.
Pence couldn’t have handled that any better than he did. Trump would be wise to follow Pence’s lead. The audio of this clip isn’t great but you can make it out.