Despite being pressed repeatedly during an interview to say the words “Black lives matter,” a phrase that’s served as a rallying cry for protesters against police brutality and systemic racism, Vice President Mike Pence refused to utter the phrase — saying, instead, that “all lives matter.”
Anchor Brian Taff of WPVI-TV, an ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, asked Pence point-blank on Friday whether he’d be willing to use the phrase.
Taff noted that the words have “fueled” the anti-racism demonstrations that have erupted across the nation since the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died at the hands of a white police officer. Yet, Taff said, only a few elected Republican officials in Washington have publicly said the words “Black lives matter.”
“I wonder, sir, if those are words that you would utter right here today,” Taff said to Pence. ‘Black lives matter.’ Can you say those words?”
“Let me just say that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy,” Pence replied. “And in this nation, especially on Juneteenth, we celebrate the fact that from the founding of this nation we’ve cherished the ideal that all, 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, which was celebrated Friday, marks the end of slavery in America. It commemorates the day in 1865 that enslaved African Americans in Texas finally learned of their emancipation two years earlier.
Noting that Pence had refused to use the words “Black lives matter,” Taff asked the vice president again if he’d say the phrase.
“Forgive me for pressing you on this, sir, but I will note you did not say those words, ‘Black lives matter,’ and there is an important distinction,” Taff said.
“People are saying, of course all lives matter, but to say the words is an acknowledgment that Black lives also matter in 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?”
“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 said in response.
He then went on to describe the efforts the Trump administration has undertaken to “improve” the lives of African Americans, such as the development of economic “opportunity zones” and restoring funding to historically Black colleges.
Taff chimed in that Pence had again not used the phrase “Black lives matter.”
“And yet, one final time, you won’t say the words, and we understand your explanation,” he said.
On Friday, protesters in at least 45 states took to the streets to mark Juneteenth and to repeat their calls for an end to racism and police violence.
“All lives do matter, but it doesn’t matter until Black lives matter,” Gwen Woods, the mother of a Black man who was shot dead by police in 2015, said at a rally in San Francisco. “That white privilege ― please check yours.”