As Puerto Rico Still Without Electricity And Food, V.P. Pence Spends $250,000 Taxpayer Money On NFL Walkout

The Trump administration is coming under fire for spending $250,000 in taxpayer money on Vice President Mike Pence’s NFL walkout at a time when American residents are still without food, water, and electricity in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Pence showed up for Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers but left just after the national anthem, saying he could not support the event after several players took a knee in protest. Pence quickly issued a statement condemning the NFL player protests.

Soon after Pence’s protest, media outlets noted that his exit from the NFL game appeared to be planned well in advance. As ESPN reported, the reporter in the press pool with Pence had been told to stay outside the stadium as Pence was planning to leave early. Others noted that Pence had planned to attend a fundraiser in California later in the day, indicating that he had no intention to stay at the game.

And Donald Trump later noted that he personally asked Mike Pence to leave the game if any NFL players protested — which was almost a certainty given that several 49ers players have been engaged in protests during the national anthem dating back to last season.

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The NFL national anthem protests date back to last year, when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem as a protest of police brutality against minorities. The protest grew to hundreds of players this season after Trump publicly criticized the NFL players taking part, calling on owners to fire them.

That has brought new attention on the cost of Mike Pence’s planned NFL walkout. Reports noted that security costs for the vice president to attend an NFL game would likely be close to $250,000 — all for Pence to leave before the game began.

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That led critics to condemn Pence’s NFL protest, which comes at a time when the Trump administration is under fire for a slow response to the crisis in Puerto Rico. Residents there are still without power and many without food and water, making Pence’s decision to spend taxpayer money on a protest that much more controversial.

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As the Washington Post noted, Trump’s Federal Emergency Management Agency has taken steps to conceal the depth of the crisis in Puerto Rico, hiding statistics on its website.

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The report noted that Trump appeared to be taking steps to hide how poorly the administration has responded to the devastation that came in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

“The reason for burying the bad news — fewer than 1 in 8 Puerto Ricans have electricity and barely over half have water — seems pretty obvious. President Trump has faced a great deal of criticism for his handling of the crisis on the island. (A poll released this week found that fewer than a third of Americans thought Trump was handling the Puerto Rico response well.) By conveying information that suggests the island is still struggling, which it very much is, FEMA would only be reinforcing that perception.”

With the situation in Puerto Rico not improving greatly now several weeks after the hurricane, it appears there will continue to be increasing pressure on Donald Trump and Mike Pence for their role in the slow response. Actions like NFL walkouts that cost $250,000 in taxpayer money will only increase that scrutiny.

[Featured Image by Michael Conroy/AP Images]