Pence denounces canceling culture amid protests, praises Zelenskyy at University of Virginia

On Tuesday night, former Vice President Mike Pence praised Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy, slammed President Biden and ‘canceled culture’ and said he would tell his child ‘I love you’ if his or her son or daughter came out as gay.

His remarks at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, more than four years removed from a violent white nationalist rally in 2017, revealed a political figure trying to both embrace and distance himself from former President Donald Trump, as he begins to chart the course for his own potential presidential bid in 2024.

While his visit focused on free speech and was billed as “How to save America from the woke left,” he also advocated supporting the Ukrainian people and called Russia’s invasion a “war of ‘unacceptable aggression’.

Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence waves as he arrives to speak at a campus conference hosted by Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia on April 12, 2022.

RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images

He encouraged attendees to contribute to humanitarian efforts in and around Ukraine, while praising Zelenskyy, whose refusal to surrender to Russia has garnered bipartisan admiration, with the exception of the Republican congressman from North Carolina. North. Madison Cawthornwho had previously called Zelensky “corrupt” and a “thug”.

“Putin only understands force and America must meet this moment with American force,” Pence said, adding that he wanted more military aid sent to Ukraine and economic sanctions against Russia and Russia. President Vladimir Putin. Under the Trump administration, it fell to Pence to inform Zelenskyy that hundreds of millions in aid would be withheld because Ukraine was failing to tackle corruption, The Washington Post noted.

Pence embraced Trump’s agenda as he touted his accomplishments, and he compared Trump to Republican icon Ronald Reagan, saying the two challenged the political establishment.

“Under the Trump-Pence administration, we actually achieved things that conservatives have only been talking about for generations,” he said. “We did everything while standing firm for freedom.”

Pence’s speech with the Young Americans for Freedom Foundation in Virginia is part of a series of college visits he has made in recent months. He was also active in the 2022 congressional and state races through endorsements and ad buys for targeted districts.

“Politically, he’s focused on the midterms and making sure we win back both houses of Congress and more gubernatorial mansions,” former Pence chief of staff Marc Short told CBS News when asked. he was asked if Pence’s visit was a prelude to a 2024 presidential campaign. “That’s not part of a presidential campaign.”

He added that Pence will be traveling extensively this summer, mostly for home runs, but will stay out of the GOP primaries. Trump, on the other hand, has made a number of mentions in Republican primaries, even those involving GOP incumbents.

Short says he doesn’t think Pence will be subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol. Short, who was subpoenaed and testified before the committee, said it would be “incredibly unprecedented for a vice president to be called before a separate branch of government to discuss private conversations with the president.”

Pence defended his decision to follow the U.S. Constitution in certifying the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021 — over Trump’s public and private objections, in hopes that Pence would help overturn the election and keep Trump in power. despite his loss to Mr. Biden. Pence said he doesn’t know if he and Trump will “ever agree” on what happened that day.

Prior to Pence’s remarks, there were protest plans and an editorial in the college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, which criticized the university’s invitation to Pence and claimed his appearance would spread “hateful rhetoric” towards marginalized communities. .

“It’s a university I’d be almost disappointed if we didn’t have hecklers,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “A large majority of students, faculty and staff want to hear both sides. They know where they stand – if it was Trump, it would be something totally different.”

But only a small number of protesters remained outside as Pence began speaking, and he addressed criticism of the event by portraying it as a battle between cancel culture and free speech.

“I heard there was a little controversy before my visit,” Pence said. “The antidote to undo culture is freedom. The antidote to waking up America is freedom…the truth is that each of you must be prepared to stand on the ramparts of freedom in your life.”

Pence also spent time attacking Biden’s handling of the economy and immigration, rising inflation, and what he called the Biden administration’s “assault on culture.”

During a Q&A with students, Pence, who has opposed same-sex marriage, was asked what he would say if his son or daughter were gay.

“I would look them in the eye and say, ‘I love you,'” he said, to cheers from the audience. marriage between a man and a woman, “the way we come together as a united country, I believe, is when we respect your right to believe, and my right to believe what we believe.”

Asked by a student if he would run for president in 2024, Pence replied, “I’ll let you know.”

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