In the city where Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner made names for themselves, conservatives aren’t surprised by the sound and fury over Vice President Mike Pence’s commitment to his marriage.
Elites in Hollywood and the Beltway were shocked to learn that the vice president doesn’t dine alone with women or attend parties where alcohol is served without his wife.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the negative reaction to Mr. Pence’s fidelity is further evidence of the cultural divide on display during the presidential race.
“If the worst thing people can say about Mike Pence is that he’s a good husband, then he’s accomplished something very few politicians have,” Mr. Perkins wrote in his weekly “Washington Update” newsletter. “Unfortunately, we live in a day and age when marriage is rarely revered — in definition or practice — so the idea that the vice president would take intentional steps to protect his own has apparently come as a shock to some of the elitist media.”
He said Americans have been “conditioned to expect sexual scandal in Washington.”
Known as the Billy Graham Rule, the practice of married men and women avoiding being left alone with a member of another sex is not uncommon in Evangelical households, but was widely ridiculed as antiquated and even misogynistic by comedians and feminists.
“Daily Show” host Trevor Noah drew a parallel between how the vice president treats women and how women are treated in the Islamic world.
“They spend all their time bashing Muslims, right, for how they treat women,” Mr. Noah said on his show Monday. “Yet, they seem to be perfectly fine over here with Shariah Mike, whose going like, ‘No women alone with me one-on-one.’”
Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, said the vice president is guilty of “discrimination under the guise of chivalry.”
“Of all the shockingly retrograde views about gender that the past year has brought us, a top contender is the revelation of Mike Pence’s policy of refusing to dine with women unless his wife is present,” Ms. Sherwin wrote Thursday on the ACLU’s “Speak Freely” blog.
She said the practice “deprives female employees of critical opportunities for networking, mentoring, and face time.”
“As for Vice President Pence, if his policy of excluding, blaming, and shaming women is reflected in either White House employment practices or educational policy initiatives, we may well see him in court,” Ms. Sherwin wrote.
But other women found the practice refreshing — especially in a town infamous for politicians cheating on their spouses.
Jedediah Bila, co-host of ABC’s “The View,” said the Washington crowd should follow the vice president’s example, not mock it.
“Walk into these bars in D.C. Look at a happy hour among politicians. And you know the history of politicians that cheat on their wives, that cheat on their husbands,” Ms. Bila said. “I think it’s nice to see someone say, ‘Look, if you want to get ahead, let’s do it in a professional environment. You’re not going to compromise my family or my values.’”
“He’s saying if you want to work with me, you can work in the office,” she said. “You don’t have to work over drinks.”
Several women who worked for the vice president have also come out in support of their former boss.
Ericka Andersen, who worked for Mr. Pence when he was chairman of the House Republican Caucus, said the former congressman did “nothing but great things for my career.”
“When the media went crazy last week about the 2002 comment Pence made about never dining alone with women, I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about,” Ms. Andersen wrote earlier this week at National Review. “I had heard of Pence’s rule when I started worked for him in 2009 and thought nothing of it. It seemed like a great way to avoid the perception of inappropriateness. With gossip and reporters floating around every corner of Capitol Hill (and elsewhere), extra precaution seemed prudent.”
With nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, Mr. Perkins said “the Pences chose wisdom.”
“These days,” he said, “I suppose the simplest morality is the most confounding for liberals.”