Former Vice President Mike Pence declined an invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this week, CPAC Communications Director Ian Walters confirmed to this reporter Monday.
“We invited him and he did not take us up on the invitation,” Walters said, adding that this is the first time in 18 years that Pence will not speak at CPAC.
“I do know that he has been speaking at CPAC for a long time. My recollection is the first time was in 2003 when he was a House member,” Walters said.
“There’s a great deal of affection for him among grassroots conservative activists,” Walters added.
In an interview with USA Today, CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp expressed his regrets that Pence will not be in attendance.
“His conservative record is well respected, and conservatives want to hear his take on the current threats posed by socialism and this radicalized Democrat party,” Schlapp told USA Today, adding that it’s a “mistake” for Pence to not speak at the conference.
Pence has regularly spoken at the conference in previous years, however, a source told CNN that the former vice president is looking to stay under the radar for six months.
A Pence aide told Fox News Sunday that the former vice president has been intentionally keeping a low profile, focusing on family and his new charity partnerships.
The conference begins Thursday in Orlando, Fl, and it has has been labeled one of the year’s most important conservative political gatherings.
The conference will end Sunday, with former President Trump scheduled to give the closing remarks in his first public appearance since leaving the White House.
Sources familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill that the former president will speak about the future of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. He is also expected to condemn President Biden’s immigration platform.
Fox News reported that Pence is still harboring “bitterness” toward Trump after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol building, according to members of Pence’s team.
However, Walters did not comment on if Pence’s decision to not attend the conference had anything to do with Trump’s attendance.
“That’s really more of a question for Pence’s side to answer. I’m not sure what their thinking is. I’m not directly in touch with anybody in his office so anything I would say would be speculative,” Walters said.
Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy
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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”
Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.
Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.
“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”
“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”
This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”
During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.
“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”
“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.
Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.
“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”
He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.
Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”
“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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