(WASHINGTON) — Former Vice President Mike Pence and former President Donald Trump have in recent days exchanged sharp words over the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, escalating a conflict between the two erstwhile partners.
Pence, speaking Saturday at the Gridiron Dinner in Washington, denounced his former boss over the insurrection.
“History will hold Donald Trump accountable for Jan. 6,” said Pence, who has been considering running against Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. “Make no mistake about it: What happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way. President Trump was wrong. His reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day.”
“Tourists don’t injure 140 police officers by simply sightseeing,” Pence added, referencing how some other conservatives have sought to describe the rioters. “Tourists don’t break down doors to get to the speaker of the House. Tourists don’t threaten public officials.”
Pence also offered praise for the journalists in the audience, handing a compliment to a group Trump has lambasted as the “enemy of the people.”
“We were able to stay at our post in part because you stayed at your post,” he said of the reporters in the Capitol during the attack two years ago. “The American people know what happened that day because you never stopped reporting.”
While Pence previously faulted Trump for the riot, suggesting Trump’s calls for the overturning of the 2020 presidential election helped spur the violence, his comments on Saturday were unusually blunt and reportedly prompted a harsh rebuke from Trump.
“I heard his statement, and I guess he decided that being nice isn’t working because he’s at 3% in the polls, so he figured he might as well not be nice any longer,” Trump told a small group of media aboard his plane on Monday.
Pence has been traveling to states that host early presidential nominating contests and has been vague on whether he’d back Trump in 2024 if Trump won the primary, telling ABC News’ David Muir in November that he thinks there will be “better choices.”
Quotes from the Gridiron Dinner, a white-tie event for politicos and top Washington journalists, trickled out over Twitter and via news articles. However, coverage of it was partially stifled by virtue of there being no cameras in the venue to shoot video of Pence’s remarks.
But his upcoming travel, including to New Hampshire on Thursday and Iowa on Saturday, will have far more extensive media coverage — especially amid his continued break with Trump.
Pence’s team did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.