“I thought I’d be okay wearing a black tie tonight,” Pence joked, according to NPR. “Then Nancy Pelosi asked me to refill her coffee.”
Pence wrapped up by issuing a defense of a free press and First Amendment rights.
Below is the White House pool report of Pence’s remarks, with our annotations. To see an annotation, click on the highlighted text.
MIKE PENCE: “I’m pleased to be joined by a number of members of President Trump’s Cabinet. And frankly with all of Chuck Schumer’s obstruction, I’m just glad we had enough to fill the head table.
“It’s especially great that TV journalists are finally allowed to attend. I see all the major networks are represented here, which makes it easier for me because I only have to say the same thing once.”
He noted that MSNBC is here. “But I guess it’s only a matter of time before the rest of show business gets invited.
“Speaking of show business, did you all see what happened at the Oscars last week? It really was something. They gave out the best picture award to the wrong film. I gotta tell you, we haven’t seen that many shocked Hollywood liberals since, I don’t know, November the eighth?”
Pence said it’s an honor to [be] vice president to the “broad-shouldered” and “big-hearted” Trump as he made fun of himself for repeating the line across networks on Wednesday morning.
“I actually heard that Bret Baier proposed a drinking game for every time I said those two words tonight, so Brett, I hope you got a designated driver.”
He joked that Trump asked him to send a message tonight and looked around for it. “’Be friendly’ — no wait, that’s from my wife.
“’Remember to pick up some milk on the way home’ — that one is from the president, but it’s not the one I was looking for.
“Oh, here it is, it’s on my phone. ‘Mike, thanks for covering the Gridiron dinner. Have a good time. Get some rest this weekend. Next weekend there’s an important ribbon-cutting in Antarctica I really need you to cover.’”
Not missing a beat, he added, “It really is an honor to be vice president for a man like President Trump.”
Razzing Sean Spicer, Pence said, “Sean, I really want to apologize that you didn’t get served dinner tonight. … When the waiter asked you what you wanted for your entree, you shouldn’t have said, ‘Sit down, I never called on you.’”
Talking about the Oval Office, Pence said, “I gotta tell you, every time I look at that portrait of Hamilton, I feel like there’s a lecture coming on.”
Back on POTUS’s address to Congress: “I even thought I heard Rachel Maddow start to say something nice, but then MSNBC immediately cut to commercial.”
On his email controversy: “The end of the week was a little embarrassing for me. Not that I had a personal email account when I was governor. [It] really was embarrassing for me to have millions of Americans learn that I’m one of the few people in the country to still have an AOL account.
“My wife said it was good for my image. She said now America knows I’m not stuck in the ’50s — I’m just stuck in the ’90s.”
He then read some mean tweets about himself and his use of AOL. One was: “This is Mike Pence, former governor of Indiana, vice president of the United States, Chili’s patron, AOL user.”
On the press: “It’s really good to be with all of you. I really, seriously, I really respect the way you do your job — so does the president.”
He said the media knows what the real stories are, such as when his family moved to Washington and the press kept reporting on his rabbit, Marlon Bundo.
“Marlon’s become kind of a big deal. He got himself an Instagram account. #BOTUS.”
Pence then made a joke about the bunny liking Fox News and it being a long time before he will go on “BNN” — and “Jake Hopper” not being happy about it.
On House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.): “Paul has his P90X, 90 minutes of aerobic workout that stresses every muscle in the body every day. And I do Jazzercise at the Y.”
Joking about their matching Tuesday ties, “At least I didn’t go with my backup … an all-white pantsuit. That would have been awkward.”
To Nancy Pelosi, who was in the room, he said, “The president and I hope you don’t change. Seriously, we’re counting on it.”
Pence said that he was offended that so many of his former colleagues rushed for the exits Tuesday night after the president’s speech to Congress, but that he understood why. “They were racing out because they didn’t want to miss some must-see TV. The dynamic message of a rising star. The future of the Democratic Party. Kentucky’s own former governor, Steve Beshear.”
He said Beshear’s remarks really were inspiring — especially the part when he claimed to be a Democrat, and proud republican and mostly American.
“Humor is a great unifier, and this lighthearted tradition is a welcome respite … and be assured while we will have our differences — and I promise the members of the Fourth Estate that you’ll almost always know when we have them — President Trump and I support the freedom of the press enshrined in the First Amendment.
“I’ve been an advocate of the free and independent press for a long time. I worked as a commentator on the radio back in the 1990s, a kind of Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”
He said he was proud of the federal media shield statute that passed the House of Representatives when he was a congressman. (His next line was inaudible due to clapping.)
Referencing Thomas Jefferson, he said, “Given a choice between government without a free press or a free press without a government, I should choose the latter.”
He also brought up the quote chiseled into the wall of the Chicago Tribune about the press being a check upon the government that no Constitution has ever been able to provide.
“True words indeed,” he said. “But these days, and I say this with the deepest respect, it seems like in the, it seems like in this short news cycle in which we live, that too often stories will make Page One and drive news with, with just too little respect to the people who are affected or involved. So let me just say to you as, not as your vice president, but just as a neighbor and as a champion of the [inaudible] that I think, I think we’ve all just got to do better. And the way I think we can do better is by focusing on what unites us more often as Americans. Our commitment to truth … you know we saw the unity around our highest ideals and higher belief on Tuesday night. It was a special night. And a courageous woman and her heroic husband brought a divided nation together as the president paid tribute to Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who lost his life in the line of duty.”
He added, “When Carryn [Owens] stood up … all of our divisions melted away. In that moment, there were no Republicans, there were no Democrats on that floor, there were just Americans. And not just in the Congress [but] all across the country. So in these divided times, I think we ought to try and do as much as we can. Actions, words and deeds that emulate Carryn and her courageous family. Take every opportunity that we have to stand up, to stand together. And take every opportunity to look up a little bit more, with grateful hearts for the privilege of servicing and live in the great nation in the history of the world.
“If we do that, I believe with all of my heart, by God’s grace, these divided times will give way to unity and freedom, and America will be great again.”