Pence refuses to say 'Black lives matter,' instead says 'all lives matter'

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Momentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election MORE in a new interview repeatedly refused to say the words “Black lives matter,” instead saying that, "all lives matter in a very real sense." 

In an interview with Philadelphia outlet 6ABCAction News, Pence was asked if he would say “Black lives matter” in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died last month after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest for several minutes.

Protests have called for widespread police reforms, as well as other racial justice issues. 

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“Let me just say that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy,” Pence said Friday. “And in this nation, especially on Juneteenth, we celebrate the fact that from the founding of this nation, we cherish the ideal that all of us are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And so all lives matter in a very real sense.” 

Juneteenth is an annual holiday celebrated on June 19 commemorating the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation to former slaves in Galveston, Texas. Texas was the final state where the order was read and slaves were freed after first being issued by Lincoln two years earlier. 

Pence added that the Trump administration is “supporting law enforcement” and will not “defund the police.” The protests across the country have called for defunding police departments and reallocating city and state funds to social programs, specifically those focused on alternative forms of public safety and crime prevention. 

“We're going to fund new resources to law enforcement to raise the standards for the use of force for de-escalation, to make it possible to deploy personnel, social workers who can deal with challenging situations, people that are trained in dealing with homelessness, to prevent the kind of incident that we saw that take place,” Pence said.

Pence was again pressed to say “Black lives matter” during the interview, with anchor Brian Taff telling the vice president, “People are saying, of course all lives matter, but to say the words is an acknowledgment that Black lives also matter at a time in this country when it appears that there's a segment of our society that doesn't agree. So why will you not say those words?" Taff asked. 

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“Well, I don't accept the fact, Brian, that there's a segment of American society that disagrees in the preciousness and importance of every human life,” Pence responded.

The vice president said the Trump administration is “absolutely determined to improve the lives of our African American citizens with more job opportunities, more educational opportunities, and this administration will remain committed to doing what we've been doing all along.”

"And yet, one final time, you won't say the words and we understand your explanation," Taff added.

The Black Lives Matter movement was sparked after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. 

GOP Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP set to release controversial Biden report McConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Will Republicans' rank hypocrisy hinder their rush to replace Ginsburg? MORE (Utah) earlier this month joined protesters marching in Washington, D.C. over Floyd's death.

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Romney told NBC News at the protest, "We need a voice against racism. We need many voices against racism and against brutality. And we need to stand up and say Black lives matter." 

Pence on Friday also responded during the interview to a video released by President Trump this week of a Black toddler and a white toddler edited to include a CNN chyron reading “terrified todler[sic] runs from racist baby." 

The video has been removed from Facebook and Twitter over copyright complaints. The parents of one of the children in the videos filed a complaint Friday.

Pence called the video “humorous," telling 6ABCAction News, “I think when you watch much of the national news media these days, Brian, it seems like they focus more every day on what divides us in this country. I think that the president saw an opportunity with a good sense of humor to once again challenge the media narrative.”