Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said debate moderator Martha Raddatz “mischaracterized” an answer he gave at last week’s vice presidential debate when she asked Donald Trump if the Republican ticket was in agreement on what U.S. policy should be in Syria.
On the debate stage last week, Pence said that “provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. And if Russia chooses to be involved and continue, I should say, to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime.”
During Sunday's debate, Raddatz pressed Trump on what he would do "about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo," and repeated Pence's remarks nearly verbatim.
"I want to remind you what your running mate said," Raddatz told Trump. "He said provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in air strikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime."
“He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree," Trump responded.
The U.S. should instead allow Russia and Syria to combat the Islamic State, Trump continued, telling Raddatz, “I don't like [Syrian President Bashar] Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS and they have lined up because of weak foreign policy.”
The Obama administration has accused Russia and the Assad regime of targeting civilians and going after rebel groups supported by the United States, not just ISIL.
Pence, in his Monday morning interview on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends,” said that contrary to what Trump said Sunday night, there is no daylight between the two GOP nominees on the issue of Syria.
“Well, I think Martha Raddatz just mischaracterized the statement that I made in my debate a week ago. I was asked a question about Aleppo,” Pence said. “The question that was asked by [moderator Elaine Quijano] in our debate had to do with the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. And I said Donald Trump and my position is that we need to establish safe zones. We need to secure those safe zones and if necessary to use military force to allow the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in Aleppo, including 100,000 children, to be able to escape.”
“Last night, Martha conflated those into a larger question about Russian provocation, Russian aggression,” Pence said. “And so I didn't begrudge him at all saying we didn't discuss it. He disagreed with that.”
The Indiana governor’s answer earned a rare fact-check from the generally GOP-friendly “Fox and Friends.” Referring to Trump’s assertion that the U.S. should allow Russia and Syria to bring the fight to the Islamic State, host Brian Kilmeade told Pence, “He’s wrong though. Russia is not targeting ISIS directly and neither is Assad. That’s not their priority.”
In a subsequent interview on MSNBC, Pence said, “Well, we’re really both right, and Martha Raddatz was wrong.”
“The way Martha presented that question last night was to suggest that Russian provocation broadly and that of the Assad regime should be met with military force. That was nothing I ever advocated for. It’s not the policy of this team or of this administration,” he said.
“Donald Trump and I are focused on establishing and securing safe zones for the people of Syria to be able to escape and get out of harm’s way," Pence added. "But his focus, I believe is the right focus, is to destroy ISIS at its source, pull together the resources of our country, hit them in Raqqa, hit them wherever they are and make our people and, frankly, make the world safer as a result.”