Karen Pence defends husband after backlash for not wearing a mask at Mayo Clinic visit

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Second lady Karen Pence defended her husband on Thursday after he came under fire for not wearing a face mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota this week.

"As our medical experts have told us wearing a mask prevents you from spreading the disease and knowing that he doesn’t have COVID -19, he didn’t wear one,” Karen Pence said on “Fox & Friends,” referencing to the fact that her husband had tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

On April 13, the Mayo Clinic had announced a policy requiring all patients or visitors to bring their own face mask. The center said if patients or visitors did not have a face mask, they would be provided with one, to comply with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The clinic tweeted -- then later deleted -- this tweet: “Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today."

“It was actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out that they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask,” Karen Pence said.

Video shows Pence, who is the head of the White House coronavirus task force, appearing to be the only one without a mask when he met with a Mayo employee who has recovered from COVID-19 and is now donating plasma. He was also maskless when he visited a lab where Mayo conducts coronavirus tests.

He addressed the controversy and told reporters that while he agrees with the CDC guidelines about wearing masks to contain the spread of coronavirus, he and everyone around him is tested for the virus regularly.

Vice President Mike Pence, who chose not to wear a face mask while touring the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on Tuesday, visits Dennis Nelson, a patient who survived the coronavirus and was going to give blood.

Vice President Mike Pence, who chose not to wear a face mask while touring the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on Tuesday, visits Dennis Nelson, a patient who survived the coronavirus and was going to give blood. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

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Some celebrities and Democrats, including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, criticized the vice president over his decision not to wear a face mask.

“In Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic, he was trying to show us how 'tough' he is -- but just showed his arrogance, lack of concern for others, and vanity,” Gabbard tweeted.

Actress Bette Midler tweeted, "#MikePence didn’t wear a mask at a visit to the #MayoClinic because he wanted to look people 'in the eye.' Does he not know the difference between surgical masks & sleep masks? And does Mother make him wear a sleep mask so he can’t see other women in his dreams?"

Actress Barbra Streisand also tweeted her criticism, calling him a “terrible” role model.

“Someone who has worked on this whole task force for over two months is not someone who would have done anything to offend anyone or hurt anyone or scare anyone,” Karen Pence said on Thursday.

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Karen Pence has also tested negative for COVID-19.

Fox News’ Morgan Phillips, Tyler McCarthy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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