DETROIT — Conservative radio host Charlie Sykes challenged Mike Pence in an interview Monday to persuade his running mate to “stop saying crazy and offensive things” over the remainder of the presidential campaign, prompting a five-second pause by the GOP vice presidential nominee as he formulated a response for Trump’s incessant use of offensive names and insinuations.
"Last week was a rocky week — there was talk, you know, of suicidal campaign staffers, [and] the possibility of a so-called intervention in the campaign after a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” the Wisconsin-based WTMJ radio host said. "So I’ll ask this as bluntly as I can — can you or anyone else get Mr. Trump to stop saying crazy and offensive things for the next three months?”
Pence, reluctant to answer for several seconds, eventually responded to the stories of campaign disarray. “You always hear these rumors," Pence said. "It just, you know, I guess it makes for good fodder on the internet. I tell you, this campaign is head down, going after it hard.”
The Indiana governor went on to encourage Sykes -- a frequent Trump critic -- and his listeners to “just get ready” and read Trump’s economic policy plan, which the nominee unveiled in Detroit Monday. But Sykes interjected, asking if Trump would be able to focus his attention on issues like the economy.
Pence demurred, saying the campaign is “now moving in the direction of the fall campaign” and that more “very specific policies” should be expected.
But when pressed on whether that indicated a “pivot” by Trump into a “new, presidential, on-message” candidate, Pence suggested “people can characterize it” how they like.
Sykes also questioned Pence over Trump’s remarks about the parents of fallen Captain Humayun Khan, asking the VP candidate twice whether Trump should apologize to the Khan family.
Pence did not answer the question but responded: “I think he’s made it clear that Captain Khan is an American hero. And I think he’s, I think he's think he’s demonstrated his heart about this man.”
Sykes pushed Pence to square his own advocacy for religious liberties with Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim entering the United States. Pence said that he does not see the plan as a ban on a particular religion, telling Sykes he “made my position clear” at the time of Trump’s initial proposal in December when he called it “offensive and unconstitutional."
Instead, Pence on Monday clarified what, according to him, the ticket’s position is on new immigration and refugee control measures.
"What I can tell you the position that Donald Trump is advocating today is that we should temporarily suspend immigration from countries that have been compromised by terrorism,” Pence said, calling that proposal “altogether fitting and appropriate.”
Sykes’ interview with Donald Trump ahead of the Wisconsin primary in early April gained great attention when the Wisconsinite called into question the then-frontrunner’s personal conduct on the campaign trail after he tweeted an unflattering photo of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz.
"I didn't start it — he started it. Again, if he didn't start it, nothing like this would have happened," Trump told Sykes in the March 28 interview.
Sykes rebuked Trump directly in the interview: "I expect that from a 12-year-old bully on the playground. Not somebody who wants the office held by Abraham Lincoln."
Trump, days later, called Sykes “a dope.”
“We have these dopey guys. This one guy — he’s such a dope. I talked him, a radio guy, some guy named Sykes,” Trump said. "What a dope. The guy doesn’t — no, he doesn’t have a clue.”
On Monday during their interview exchange, Sykes played the clip of Trump’s name calling for Pence to listen to.
Pence, who, Sykes said, reached out to him to appear on the show, lightly laughed at the audio and responded: “Well, Charlie, I’ve been a fan of yours for many, many years. I appreciate your common sense, conservative voice across the airwaves."