'Can I carry the empty ones?' Pence jokes at delivery of PPE; Kimmel apologizes for clip

The caught-on-tape moment went viral after late-night host Jimmy Kimmel played an out-of-context snippet of it on-air. Kimmel gave a back-handed apology.
Image: Mike Pence, Norman Rokeach
Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Chief Executive Officer for Marquis Health Services Norman Rokeach, center, unload boxes of PPE from FEMA at Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Alexandria, Va., on May 7, 2020.Susan Walsh / AP

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By Dareh Gregorian and Winston Wilde

Vice President Mike Pence's delivery of personal protective equipment to a nursing home in Virginia came complete with a joke offer to carry empty boxes, video of the delivery shows.

An out-of-context video snippet of the moment went viral on Friday thanks to comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

A White House official said Friday that the boxes that Pence delivered had personal protective equipment in them, and Kimmel offered a back-handed apology for the misleading clip on Twitter.

"[I]t would appear that @vp was joking about carrying empty boxes for a staged publicity stunt. The full video reveals that he was carrying full boxes for a staged publicity stunt. My apologies. I know how dearly this administration values truth," Kimmel wrote.

Complete video of the moment shows that after delivering several packages of equipment to the Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Alexandria on Thursday, Pence offered to take more boxes from the back of the delivery van. The van's driver then tells him, "Those boxes are empty, sir."

"Can I carry the empty ones? Just for the cameras?" Pence asks the driver, who laughs and says, "They're a lot easier." A smiling Pence then closes the van doors and goes to talk to reporters. None of the empty boxes was delivered.

The delivery had already raised eyebrows on Thursday because of Pence's refusal to wear a mask or gloves while delivering the boxes, but Pence's quip blew up on social media after Kimmel played a snippet of it on his ABC late-night show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!."

"Mike Pence pretending to carry empty boxes of PPEs into a hospital is a perfect metaphor for who he is and what he's doing — a big box of nothing delivering another box of nothing," Kimmel said, without noting that Pence didn't deliver any of the empty boxes.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement, “As several journalists have noted, the deceptively edited video is obviously a lie. After delivering full boxes, Vice President Pence made a joke about carrying empty boxes for the cameras, but the edited video cuts out the laughter and the VP closing the van doors."

Murtaugh then appeared to blame Trump's Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for the video.

"If this is Joe Biden’s idea of helping the country through a crisis, he’s better off just staying in his basement,” he said.

The lack of personal protective equipment in nursing homes has been a serious issue.

The White House coronavirus task force last week directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate shipments of a week's supply of PPE to more than 15,000 nursing homes throughout the country, according to an internal FEMA email obtained by NBC News.

Industry executives have told NBC News a one-week supply is not sufficient.

"This is the first sign in months that our calls for PPE prioritization for providers of aging services are being heard — but this action is far too little, far too late," Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of 6,000 nonprofit providers of aging services, including 2,000 nursing homes, said last week.

Monica Alba contributed.