Pence Disinvited From Wisconsin Lutheran Commencement Speech Amid Kenosha Unrest
CNN reports that Vice President Mike Pence has been disinvited from delivering the commencement address at Wisconsin Lutheran College due to ongoing unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
- “Pence had been slated to give the address Saturday to the Christian college in Milwaukee, less than an hour northeast of Kenosha, which his office announced in a press release Monday,” the news outlet reported.
- The school cited "escalating events" as the motivating factor in their decision to choose a different speaker.
- In a Thursday statement, the college said: "After further review with careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha, the WLC Board of Regents and the College's Administration have jointly decided to present a different speaker instead of the Vice President of the United States, Michael R. Pence, at the Saturday, August 29, 2020, commencement.”
- The change in plans was confirmed by a spokesperson for Pence, CNN reported.
"Vice President Pence understands and supports Wisconsin Lutheran College's decision to prioritize the safety and well-being of their students, and wishes the students well as they celebrate the accomplishment of graduating from college and as they embark on their next journey," Pence's press secretary Devin O'Malley told CNN in a statement.
- In Pence’s place, Rev. Mark Jeske, pastor of the St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, will deliver the commencement address.
The decision comes amid some vocal opposition from alumni and current students who penned a letter earlier this week, updated Wednesday night, renouncing Pence's participation and claims from the college that the event was not political.
"We are concerned about the college's blatantly inappropriate decision to invite the vice president to speak for this monumental event for the Class of 2020. Not only is the invitation disrespectful, but also the remarks provided by the college fail to recognize the reality of the decision," the group wrote in an open letter.
- CNN noted that the decision “also comes as the Trump administration has failed to substantively address the shooting of Blake and the protests that have ensued in the Milwaukee suburb.”
- On Wednesday during his remarks at the Republican National Convention, Pence only briefly mentioned Kenosha as he spoke more broadly about law and order but “did not address systemic racism or police brutality, nor did he mention the shooting of Blake by a police officer or Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two people Tuesday night.”
- The vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, suggested to CNN on Thursday that Pence could travel to Kenosha, saying when asked: “Perhaps, perhaps."