Mike Pence would not say the words “black lives matter” when pressed during an interview on Friday, instead saying that “all lives matter” before giving a controversial accounting of the history of the Juneteenth holiday.
Pence was speaking to 6ABC Action News in Philadelphia when he was asked about the Black Lives Matter movement. The vice president was asked if he would say those specific words, seen as a show of support to the movement, but did not in his initial reply.
“Let me just say that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy,” Pence answered when asked if he would say “black lives matter.”
“And in this nation, especially on Juneteenth, we celebrate the fact that from the founding of this nation we’ve cherished the ideal that all, all of us are created equal, and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And so all lives matter in a very real sense.”
As CNN argues, the United States was not originally founded on the ideal that all are created equal, as slavery persisted for close to a century. Unlike what Pence implied, Juneteenth instead celebrates a time when enslaved people in Texas were finally set free, nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This took place nearly a century after the founding of the United States, the report pointed out.
Anchor Brian Taff continued to press Pence about his not saying the words “black lives matter,” which he said is an important distinction from “all lives matter.” Critics claim the phrase “all lives matter” is seen as a way to detract from the Black Lives Matter movement, which argues that people of color have suffered disproportionate amounts of police brutality and resulting deaths. He asked again if Pence would say those words, but again the vice president would not.
“Well, I don’t accept the fact, Brian, that there’s a segment of American society that disagrees, in the preciousness and importance of every human life,” Pence said.
“… And it’s one of the reasons why as we advance important reforms in law enforcement, as we look for ways to strengthen and improve our public safety in our cities, that we’re not going to stop there.”
Many took to social media to criticize Pence for his apparent refusal to say “black lives matter,” accusing him of purposely being insensitive and refusing to support the movement.
Donald Trump has come under fire for his response to the growing Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, including what appeared to be threats against protesters. In Twitter comments made during violent protests in Minneapolis, Trump appeared to threaten sending the US military and authorizing them to shoot looters. Later, police in Washington, D.C., forcefully pushed out a group of protesters ahead of Trump making a public appearance at a nearby church.
But Trump has since made some efforts to address the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement, including introducing some law enforcement reforms.