Pence had been slated to give the address Saturday to the Christian college in Milwaukee, less than an hour northeast of Kenosha, which his office announced in a press release Monday. The college cited “escalating events” as the reason a different speaker would be presented.
“After further review with careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha, the WLC Board of Regents and the College’s Administration have jointly decided to present a different speaker instead of the Vice President of the United States, Michael R. Pence, at the Saturday, August 29, 2020, commencement,” the college said in a statement Thursday.
A spokesman for Pence confirmed he would no longer be speaking.
“Vice President Pence understands and supports Wisconsin Lutheran College’s decision to prioritize the safety and well-being of their students, and wishes the students well as they celebrate the accomplishment of graduating from college and as they embark on their next journey,” Pence’s press secretary Devin O’Malley told CNN in a statement.
A local pastor, Rev. Mark Jeske of St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, will deliver the speech instead.
The decision comes amid some vocal opposition from alumni and current students who penned a letter earlier this week, updated Wednesday night, renouncing Pence’s participation and claims from the college that the event was not political.
Pence briefly addressed Kenosha while calling for law and order in his remarks to the Republican National Convention Wednesday. He did not address systemic racism or police brutality, nor did he mention the shooting of Blake by a police officer or Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two people Tuesday night.
“President Donald Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protest, tearing down statues is not free speech. Those who do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Pence said during his speech.
“Last week, Joe Biden didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country. Let me be clear, the violence must stop, whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” Pence added.
His chief of staff, Marc Short, suggested on Thursday that Pence could travel to Kenosha.
When asked if the vice president had reached out to Blake’s family during an appearance on MSNBC, Short said there would be “additional outreach,” but declined to provide specifics.
Pressed again, Short said: “I think that there will be conversations happening but I’m not offering anything to you right now to make news on that point today.”
And asked if Pence may be traveling to Kenosha, Short said: “Perhaps, perhaps.”
Sam Fossum and DJ Judd contributed.