Vice President Mike Pence‘s trip to Indianapolis for the Colts game Sunday may have cost over $200,000, according to various media reports.
Pence arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday to watch the Colts play the San Francisco 49ers and tweeted that he was “looking forward” to cheering on his hometown team alongside his wife, Karen. However, Pence tweeted less than two hours later that he abruptly left the game because several 49ers players took a knee during the national anthem. He left the game because he didn’t want to “dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag and our national anthem,” he tweeted.
About an hour after Pence’s exit, President Donald Trump chimed in on Twitter, claiming he spoke to the vice president prior to the game and encouraged him to leave if he saw anyone “disrespecting our country.”
Pence’s early exit from the game, which some have called a “PR stunt,” gained criticism for multiple reasons. First, as social media users discovered, the photo he tweeted “from” Lucas Oil was actually three years old. He tweeted the same photo from his account when he was the governor of Indiana on November 23, 2014.
Then, many criticized Pence and the Trump administration for using so much money to try and prove a point. With Trump taking aim at NFL players raising awareness of racial inequalities in our nation by kneeling or sitting during national anthem last month, some saw it as a ploy to expand the divisiveness between the president and the NFL.
However, the White House has since defended the trip, saying that it had been in the works “for several weeks,” predating the kneeling controversy.
The White House said that Pence had wanted to go to the Colts game because Peyton Manning was being honored at halftime.
So, how much exactly did the trip cost taxpayers?
First, it’s important to note that the White House doesn’t disclose the price tag of trips by the president and vice president. But, according to The Indianapolis Star, public documents show that with staffing included, it costs roughly $16,000 an hour to operate Air Force Two. However, some reports say the cost is somewhere around $33,000/hour.
Pence’s office said he was slated to fly back to Washington D.C. after attending an event in Las Vegas on Saturday evening. Then on Sunday, he was scheduled to fly back to the West Coast from D.C. for a fundraiser in Beverly Hills. His office claims the trip to Indianapolis and logistics that surrounded it actually saved money because he didn’t have to travel back all the way to D.C.
But a report by CNN breaking down the costs of the travel tells a different story. Assuming the cost to operate Air Force Two is $30,000/hour, Pence’s flight from Vegas to Indianapolis on Saturday night took just over three hours, coming in at a cost of around $100,000. Then, the flight from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday took nearly five hours, costing about $142,500, CNN reported. Therefore, the grand total of the travel comes at about $242,000 to taxpayers. Some of those costs will be reimbursed by the Republican National Committee, though, because of the political nature of the events in California he was attending.
“The Vice President was not going to miss the Las Vegas memorial prayer walk on Saturday, which he was honored to attend on behalf of President Trump,” a Pence aide told CNN in a statement. “If the Vice President did not go to Indiana for the Colts game, he would have flown back to D.C. for the evening — which means flying directly over Indiana. Instead, he made a shorter trip to Indiana for a game that was on his schedule for several weeks.”