Newsweek this week pulled an anecdote out of a profile of Vice President Mike Pence by The Atlantic to insinuate that he is a hypocrite -- but flat-out mischaracterized Pence's position.
The Atlantic story contains tidbits of Pence's colleges days, including the fact that he confessed to administrators at Hanover College that his fraternity had violated the school's alcohol policy. Rather than take sole blame for the keg at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, the future vice president got the whole house in trouble.
But Newsweek also focuses on something else -- a yearbook photograph of a young Pence with a woman in his lap at an event on campus.
"In one picture in which he's donning a fortune teller costume, Pence, who believes that women and men should never dine alone, smugly looks at the camera while a woman sits on his lap," the Newsweek story reports.
That is a reference to a statement Pence made in a 2002 article in The Hill newspaper. It gained renewed attention -- and a fair amount of curious outrage -- when The Washington Post included it in a March profile of Pence's wife, Karen Pence.
But Newsweek flat-out misstates the facts when it asserts Pence "believes that women and men should never dine alone."
From the Post story in March: "In 2002, Mike Pence told The Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won't attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either."
Clearly, Pence was not laying down a rule for men and women, generally -- or even for all married couples. It was a personal practice of his, designed to keep his marriage healthy and strong.
Pence graduated from Hanover in 1981 and did not get married until 1985. So even if he felt the same way as a college student that he does now, it could not be viewed as hypocritical to have had contact with a woman years before he was even married.
Rich Noyes, director of research at the Media Research Center, told LifeZette that liberal-leaning reporters are eager to call out conservative double standards when it comes to morality. He said progressives often see those moral standards as not applying to themselves because they don't advocate those moral values.
"Before it became the year of the silence-breakers, liberals loved to go after conservatives for hypocrisy," he said.
That standard appears to be changing now in the wake of sexual harassment and abuse complaints that have taken down titans of entertainment, politics and the media, Noyes said.
But more broadly, Noyes said, Pence's conduct in college had nothing to do with the rules he described for his own marriage decades later.
"He never said it applied as a general rule," he said.
Noyes said one would think Pence would be getting some praise now since he has never been accused of the kind of impropriety that has become the issue of the day.
"There's enough people doing some actual wrong things with women," he said.
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