Facts Matter: Pence joking about delivering empty boxes

  • Chief Executive Officer for Marquis Health Services Norman Rokeach, right, watches as Vice President Mike Pence, left, unloads boxes of PPE from FEMA at Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Alexandria, Va., Thursday, May 7, 2020.

    Chief Executive Officer for Marquis Health Services Norman Rokeach, right, watches as Vice President Mike Pence, left, unloads boxes of PPE from FEMA at Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Alexandria, Va., Thursday, May 7, 2020. Associated Press

Updated 5/16/2020 11:05 PM

Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel aired a video showing Vice President Mike Pence delivering boxes of personal protective equipment, or PPE, to Woodbine Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Virginia on May 7.

"Listen in closely here," Kimmel said as he highlighted a section of the footage in which Pence suggests they carry empty boxes after they finished delivering the full ones.


"Well, can I carry the empty ones? Just for the camera?" Pence asked.

Kimmel posted the video on Twitter, stating, "A big box of nothing, delivering another box of nothing." That tweet got more than 9 million views.

But the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" host cut the video off before it became clear Pence was joking, according to The Washington Post. Pence's comment is met with laughter from the group at the center as they close the doors on the back of the truck.

A Pence campaign spokesman complained on Twitter that Kimmel "selectively edited" the C-SPAN clip. Kimmel deleted the Twitter post and later gave "an apology of sorts," the Post said.

"It would appear that @vp was joking about carrying empty boxes for a staged publicity stunt," Kimmel posted on May 8. "The full video reveals that he was carrying full boxes for a staged publicity stunt. My apologies."

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During Monday's show, Kimmel apologized and said it was "wrong" to show the clip. "I didn't know because I'd only watched part of the video," he said.

Lightfoot didn't release convicted rapists

Recent social media posts falsely claim there is plenty of empty space in Chicago's jails after Mayor Lori Lightfoot released incarcerated rapists to make room for people who violate the stay-at-home order, according to The Associated Press.

But Lightfoot doesn't have the power to release inmates from the city's jails or prisons. The mayor did, however, threaten to lock up people who host large gatherings, the AP said.

"Don't make us treat you like a criminal," Lightfoot said earlier this month. "But if you act like a criminal and you violate the law and you refuse to do what is necessary to save lives in this city in the middle of a pandemic, we will take you to jail."


The false social media posts appear to combine Lightfoot's comment and an April order by Gov. J.B. Pritzker allowing elderly state inmates to be furloughed because of the coronavirus, the AP said. At Cook County jail in Chicago, a judge reduced bail for detainees not considered a threat in order to reduce the jail's population and slow the spread of the virus.

Home orders don't violate Constitution

A Facebook post falsely claims stay-at-home orders are unconstitutional, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision shortly after the Civil War.

But that case, and a quote from an unrelated, case, don't support that claim, <URL destination="https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/13/facebook-posts/no-s-not-us-supreme-court-ruling/">according to PolitiFact.com.

</URL>The Facebook post cites an 1866 ruling from the case Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2, stating, "Neither the legislature nor any executive or judicial officer may disregard the provisions of the constitution in case of emergency," PolitiFact said.

The Facebook post then continues with an unattributed quote from an unrelated Illinois Supreme Court case: "Anyone who declares the suspension of constitutionally guaranteed rights (to freely travel, peacefully assemble, earn a living, freely worship, ETC.) ... They violate their constitutional oath and, thus, immediately forfeit their office and authority and their proclamations may be disregarded with impunity and that means ANYONE; even the governor and president."

The section of the Facebook post beginning with the words "proclamations may be disregarded with impunity" is not from either case, PolitiFact said.

The first case, about disputed judicial authority during the Civil War, involved Lambdin P. Milligan, who was tried by a military tribunal in Indiana and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court ruled the tribunal had no power in areas with established civil courts.

The other quote is taken from the case People ex rel. Lyle vs. City of Chicago, in which the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the justices of Chicago's municipal court who filed a complaint against the city council over unpaid salaries during the Depression. The chief justice said the courts could not "disregard the provisions of the (Illinois) constitution, even in case of a great emergency."

PolitiFact cites the American Bar Association in saying the U.S. Constitution's 10th Amendment and past U.S. Supreme Court decisions make clear that "state governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions."

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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