Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, got into a heated exchange during an interview on MSNBC Thursday morning as he fiercely defended the large maskless crowd who attended the VP’s RNC speech at Fort McHenry the night before.
When MSNBC anchor Hallie Jackson pressed Short on whether all attendees were tested for COVID-19 prior to Pence’s RNC speech — since Pence and President Trump interacted with the maskless crowd afterward, which included fist-bumping at least one attendee — Short replied that only those who were backstage with Trump and Pence were tested.
Short then falsely claimed that seating was socially distanced and insisted that guidance on mask wearing and that temperature checks were given prior to Pence’s speech. He then directed his ire toward the media.
“But you know, Hallie, I do think because the vice president gave such a strong speech and laid out such a stark difference it’s no surprise that the media wants to focus on mask shaming this morning,” Short said.
Jackson pushed back at the notion that she was “mask shaming” attendees of the RNC speech that Pence — the head of the White House coronavirus task force — delivered and called Short out for dodging her question on COVID-19 testing.
Short continued talking over Jackson before arguing that because the man Pence fist-bumped was a wounded veteran, it was a gesture that the VP couldn’t refuse.
“The fist bump is a wounded warrior who served our country and is a hero and if he puts his hand out to ask for a fist bump, I don’t think it’s a surprise the vice president is going to do that,” Short said.
Jackson then bluntly mentioned that nobody has an issue with Pence fist-bumping the veteran out of respect, but that the question is whether people in the front rows or the entire audience was tested for COVID-19.
Short curtly replied that he answered the question, prompting Jackson to point out that he only mentioned that COVID-19 tests taken by those backstage.
“So, no COVID testing then — let’s just put this in plain English,” Jackson told Short, who conceded that “some” weren’t tested.
“There were some that weren’t,” Short said. “And it was not universal because again, the buffer was there to keep the President and Vice President from the rest of the crowd.”
Short’s vehement defense of the large maskless crowd came after CNN reported that there was no COVID-19 testing requirement for attendees of Pence’s RNC speech before an audience of about 135 people. The crowd exceeded the audience of first lady Melania Trump’s speech at the newly renovated Rose Garden the night before, which was attended by approximately 70 people.
On Tuesday, first lady chief of staff Stephanie Grisham told CNN that those who sat “in the rows near” Trump and Pence during Melania Trump’s speech were tested for COVID-19 prior to the event.
Following the Washington Post’s report on Wednesday that 1,000 people are expected to attend Trump’s Thursday night speech at the White House, where he will accept the GOP’s nomination for re-election, a Trump campaign official told TPM that a coronavirus adviser has been consulted for in-person RNC events and necessary precautions are instituted based on their guidance.
Watch Short’s remarks below:
Pence chief of staff Marc Short clashes with MSNBC's Hallie Jackson while defending maskless crowd at VP's RNC speech pic.twitter.com/RIA0qoxIGh
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) August 27, 2020