Former Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday he would consider a woman for vice president -- but left open whether he would dine alone with her, having made a promise to his wife when he was first elected to Congress that he wouldn't be alone with another woman.
Asked in a town hall with NewsNation whether he would consider a woman for his No. 2, Pence said, "You better believe it."
"When I was governor of Indiana, my first lieutenant governor was a woman," Pence said, praising her success. "So you better believe it. But if I'm a Republican nominee -- I don't want to get ahead of things -- but I promise you we're going to find that person who's the best qualified, the best prepared and the most committed to the agenda which we felt called to advance, which is the traditional conservative agenda."
But pressed about whether he'd be able to have lunch alone with her, as he often did with former President Donald Trump, Pence called it a "clever question" -- and did not directly answer it but explained the promise he made in his marriage.
"That's, that's a very clever question. It really is," Pence said with a smile. "Let me just say, it's a promise my wife and I made to one another. Didn't think it was particularly controversial. When I was first elected to Congress, I did an interview about the fact that we kept our family close in public service. Somebody asked us about some of the promises we've made to one another, and I remember I said, 'Well, I promised her that I wouldn't dine alone with a woman that's not my wife.'"
Pence said his promise wasn't controversial until after he became vice president, when "somebody unearthed" a quote he'd given to The Hill in 2002: "If there's alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me," he said at the time.
"Look, I respect the way anybody manages their marriage, and I never want to feel like I'm imposing my values on anybody, but I have to tell you what we were so moved by was the outpouring of support across the country," Pence continued, citing a poll by The York Times he said had found "more than 60% of married couples actually thought it was pretty good idea."
"And so everybody kind of dropped it, and in the wake of those tragic circumstances around the Me Too movement, it seemed to go away," Pence said.
Pence ultimately did not signal any modifications to his promise but said he'll continue to put his family first.
"However it plays it public, there's no greater blessing in my life other than my faith in Jesus Christ and the marriage that I have with this incredible woman and the blessings of our family," he added, with his wife sitting steps away in the studio audience. "We'll always put them first, whatever it means, whatever criticism comes."
Karen Pence, who has been married to the former vice president for 38 years, often joins him on the 2024 campaign trail for swings through Iowa and New Hampshire. Pence fondly introduces her to voters as "the highest-ranking official in the room."