Mike Pence: Leading Member of the “Israel, What Nuclear Weapons?” Flat Earth Society

Last night, Pence addressed the Republican Convention: “And if the world knows nothing else, it will know this: America stands with Israel.”

I’ve heard him say that before.

Being a journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area, I try to ask tough questions of political figures when I can. Perhaps my favorite question is some variation of “do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons?” I’ve asked this of many political figures and virtually none have given me a straightforward response.

But the most surreal — almost comical — response came from Donald Trump’s VP pic, Mike Pence, in 2011. At the time, he was a congressman and vice-chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia:

Question: You’ve also served on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Do you know that Israel has nuclear weapons?

Pence: [long pause, looks down] I’m — I am aware that Israel is our most cherished ally. And I strongly support Israel’s right of self defense and to take such actions as are necessary to secure their homeland as much as we take actions to secure ours.”

Question: “Do you think it increases or decreases U.S. credibility around the world when U.S. government officials can’t even acknowledge that Israel has a massive nuclear arsenal?”

Pence: “The American people support Israel. I call Israel our most cherished ally and I will continue to stand — without apology — for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and strong cooperation with our most cherished ally in a very volatile part of the world.”

He was utterly incapable of engaging on the issue. The passionate attachment has become a mantra and no inconvenient facts need enter the equation.

Some other responses from political luminaries: “The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial“.

Since my questioning these figures, information has come out about gag orders on the subject. As Grant Smith of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy wrote in 2015: “Under two known gag orders — punishable by imprisonment — U.S. security-cleared government agency employees and contractors may not disclose that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. GEN-16 is a ‘no-comment’ regulation on ‘classified information in the public domain.’ ‘DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know — that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.'”

Thanks to Matt Bradley and Chris Belcher for help with the Washington Stakeout project, which questioning Pence was a part of: @dcstakeout and on YouTube

Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org