The Disturbing Truth Behind Trump and Pence’s Horrific Anti-LGBT Joke

Recently, President Donald Trump rocked the Internet with jokes he made about Vice President Mike Pence’s highly conservative views. A New Yorker expose revealed that Trump mocked Pence in a meeting with a legal scholar. When the conversation turned to LGBT rights, Trump gestured at Pence. He said, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!” That comment finds some basis in fact. We dug up some equally disturbing stances Pence has held throughout his career.

1. Pence has repeatedly victimized the LGBT community

Donald Trump and Mike Pence close with a kissy face
Donald Trump greets Mike Pence with a familiar gesture. | Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called Pence “the face of anti-LGBTQ hate in America.” The VP “made attacking the rights and dignity of LGBT people a cornerstone of his political career. Not just a part, but a defining part of his career,” he told The Washington Post.

According to the New Yorker, Pence signed a 2015 bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A photo of the closed session showed Pence surrounded by monks, nuns, and three notorious anti-gay activists. The bill basically legalized discrimination against homosexuals. LGBT-rights groups condemned it, and urged boycotts. Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, tried to talk to Pence about the legislation. “But he got this look in his eye,” Buttigieg said. “He just inhabits a different reality. He’s a zealot.”

His earlier actions further cement that claim. 

2. He’s campaigned against equal rights for LGBT people

peter bittigieg gives a speech against a red, white and blue bunting
South Bend Indiana Mayor Peter Buttigieg talks about Mike Pence and his anti-LGBT views. | Derek Henkle /AFP/Getty Images

In the early 1990s, Pence joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute. According to Rolling Stone, the organization called the movement that formed after the 1998 murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard homosexual-activist “propaganda.” It also supported criminalizing abortion and campaigned against equal rights for LGBT people. While Pence ran the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, it published an essay that advocated denying birth control to unmarried women.

In 2000, Pence said “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discrete and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He argued for renewing the AIDS resources bill only if it directed resources toward “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Pence later argued he meant abstinence groups, but gay activists heard “conversion therapy.” In 2006, he supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. He argued that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”

The vice president also aligned himself with another virulent anti-government group. 

3. Pence once wore the Tea Party tri-corner hat

Mike Pence in a dark suit speaking against Tea party protest signs
House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence speaks during a Tea Party rally. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After Barack Obama became president, Pence stood as an early voice of the Tea Party. His Midwestern charm became more militant at that time, too. The then-legislator advocated loudly for a party that opposed taxes and government spending. Marc Short, a former Pence aide, told NBC he recognized the backlash to Republican governance that created the movement.

“Mike was one of the earliest advocates for the Tea Party and his votes reflected frustration in 2010,” he said.

In 2011, Pence threatened a government shutdown unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. He later made his name for himself by fiercely opposing abortion. As a legislator, he backed “personhood” legislation that banned abortion under all circumstances. That includes rape and incest, unless pregnancy threatened the woman’s life.

He also sponsored an amendment to the Affordable Care Act making it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman seeking an abortion. Later, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus. The bill also required fetal burial or cremation, including after a miscarriage. A federal judge later found the law unconstitutional.

Pence also doesn’t believe a commonly known health hazard is one.

4. Our own VP thinks government is worse than smoking

an ashtray full of cigarette butts with two people smoking
What does Pence think hurts more people than smoking? The government. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

In 2000 Pence echoed big tobacco talking points in an essay arguing against smoking as a health hazard. According to Business Insider, Pence has made no move to update his stance. “Smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness and 9 out of 10 smokers do not contract lung cancer,” he wrote.

The Centers for Disease Control notes that smoking does kill 480,000 people every year, and shortens the life of an average user by a decade. That makes it the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Pence also wrote, “News flash: smoking is not good for you.” That probably comes as news to no one, even in 2000. Pence published that editorial 36 years after Surgeon General Luther Terry published his 1964 reports on the link between smoking and cancer.

What does Pence call worse than cigarettes? The then-governor lambasted “big government disguised as do-gooder, healthcare rhetoric.” He also called it a greater “scourge” than smoking. The politician earned a greater name for himself by opposing the next commonly held belief. 

5. Pence wants evolution taught as a ‘theory’

Mike Pence in a dark suit and red tie on a dark background
Mike Pence doesn’t believe in evolution, or lots of other scientific facts. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In 2002, Pence declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory.” He asked that it appear alongside actual scientific theories, like intelligent design. That religion-based theory argues that life on Earth is too complex for random mutation. He delivered a speech in the House decrying evolution’s “lack of evidence.”

As Forbes reported, Pence said Charles Darwin “offered a theory of the origin of species which we’ve come to know as evolution. Charles Darwin never thought of evolution as anything other than a theory. He hoped that someday it would be proven by the fossil record but did not live to see that, nor have we.”

Pence described intelligent design as the only “remotely rational explanation for the known universe,” The New Yorker said. According to the Pew Research Center, 62% of U.S. adults say humans have evolved over time. But only 33% of all Americans believe humans evolved solely due to natural processes. A quarter of U.S. adults say a supreme being guided evolution and 34% of Americans reject it entirely.

A full 98% of scientists involved in the American Association for the Advancement of Science say they believe humans evolved over time. However, only 66% of Americans think that scientists agree about evolution. That statistic, from a 2014 Pew Research Center survey on science and society might reveal where Pence gets his ideas. His religious beliefs leak into other areas of his governance, as well. 

6. He hosts a White House bible study group, with a frighteningly conservative leader

Mike Pence speaking with a blue and white defund planned parenthood sign in the foreground
Mike Pence addresses a rally on the National Mall before the start of the 44th annual March for Life. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

According to the New Yorker, Pence hardly keeps his religious views to himself. At the White House, he hosts a Bible-study group for cabinet officers. Evangelical pastor Ralph Drollinger leads that group. In 2004, Drollinger sparked protests from female legislators in California. He wrote then, “Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.” Drollinger also calls Catholicism as “a false religion.” He considers homosexuality “a sin” and believes a wife must “submit” to her husband.

The deeply religious vice president broke with his church on one key issue as governor. 

7. He demonstrated anti-refugee views

Cardinal Joseph Tobin in a red robe
Even a conversation with Joseph Tobin could not change Pence’s mind. | Tiziana FabiI/AFP/Getty Images

After the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Pence issued an executive order in his home state of Indiana, barring resettlement of Syrian refugees. The Archdiocese of Indiana was then preparing to welcome a new Syrian family. Joseph Tobin, the bishop of Indianapolis, requested a meeting, in hopes of influencing him. Tobin told Pence that the Syrian family was fleeing violence, according to the New Yorker. The family had been vetted for nearly two years prior. Pence remained deaf to the issue. Later that week, the Syrian family resettled in Connecticut.

According to NPR, federal courts struck down his executive order as discriminatory. A three-judge panel called it a “nightmare speculation” with no evidence. Judge Richard Posner called Pence’s argument “the equivalent of his saying … that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana not because they’re black but because he’s afraid of them, and since race is therefore not his motive, he isn’t discriminating.”

He added that “that of course would be racial discrimination, just as [Pence’s] targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality.”

Pence also disavows another fact most scientists agree on. 

8. He doesn’t believe in global warming

Mike Pence on the set of Fox and Friends
Mike Pence talks with “Fox & Friends” hosts, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade at Fox News Studios. | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Pence once called global warming “a myth.” He called it environmentalists’ “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” according to the New Yorker. On a Fox and Friends segment in January, he wondered aloud why climate change matters, The Huffington Post reported. “For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world,” Pence said. A report entitled, “Climate change: How do we know?” noted that “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” It calls the current global warming rate “10 times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.”

Pence’s record of climate change denying stretches back throughout his career. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, in a 2014 opinion piece in the Indianapolis Star, Pence argued against two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution limits. He also opposed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, which limits toxins that damage brain development. In 2009, he told MSNBC, “I think the science is very mixed on the subject of global warming.” As governor, he also sued the EPA to block the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era plan reducing climate pollution from power plants.

According to his political record, that stance has business-driven roots. 

9. The VP beds down with big business

Donald Trump in a dark suit pointing at Mike Pence, also in a dark suit
Trump loves Pence for his connections and political prowess. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Short credited Pence for the Kochs’ rapport with Trump. “The Kochs were very excited about the Vice-Presidential pick,” he told The New Yorker. “There are areas where they differ from the administration, but now there are many areas they’re partnering with us on.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse accused the Kochs of buying undue influence in the past. Koch Industries, with a long record of pollution, puts particular pressure on environmental policy. “If Pence were to become president for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” Whitehouse said. Former adviser Steve Bannon also balks at the idea of a Pence presidency. “I’m concerned he’d be a president that the Kochs would own,” he said.

While “hanging” gay people sounds a bit hyperbolic, many of Pence’s views represent frightening conservatism. Watchdogs in areas from LGBT rights to climate change fear a Pence presidency. That should give all Americans pause.

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