CLAIM

Mike Pence once said that condoms are "too modern" and "too liberal" and offer a poor defense against sexually transmitted diseases.

MOSTLY TRUE

RATING

MOSTLY TRUE

ORIGIN

On 11 August 2016 the Patheos blog published an item titled “Mike Pence: Condoms Are Too Modern” reporting that the Indiana governor and Republican vice presidential nominee had dismissed the prophylactic devices as “too modern and too liberal”:

Mike Pence claims condoms are too modern, and too liberal.

Donald Trump’s running mate is a dangerous Christian extremist who wants creationism taught in public schools and believes the government should pay for gay conversion therapy.

In addition, in 2015, as Governor of Indiana, Pence allowed an HIV outbreak to spread, choosing prayer over a clean needle exchange.

But perhaps one of the most idiotic claims made by Pence is that condoms are too “modern,” too “liberal,” and offer a poor defense against sexually transmitted infections and diseases.

The comments Pence (then a Congressman) actually made in this regard stemmed from a February 2002 CNN panel discussion about abstinence education. Anchor Wolf Blitzer opened the segment by explaining a current controversy over remarks made by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had just appeared on MTV and responded as follows when asked about the Pope’s stance on condom usage by Catholics:

I certainly respect the views of the holy father and the Catholic Church. In my own judgment, condoms are a way to prevent infection, and therefore, I not only support their use, I encourage their use among people who are sexually active and need to protect themselves.

Blitzer introduced his panelists and asked for their comments about what appeared to be a difference in position between Powell and then-President George W. Bush on the matter of science-based sex education:

At least one conservative group says the Bush administration is sending out, quote, “mixed signals.” And in related news, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, says New York’s public hospitals will begin offering abortion training to all OB-GYN medical students. According to National Public Radio, the Republican mayor says this sort of training would make abortion more available nationally, and that fact has many abortion opponents up in arms. Two high-profile Republicans on the record here — Colin Powell endorses condom use for sexually active young people, and New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, presses for abortion training.

Let’s open up our debate here. With me now, Republican congressman Mike Pence of Indiana; Democratic congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

Congressman, first to you. What’s wrong with what Secretary Powell have to say about endorsing condom use for those who are sexually active?

Pence replied by reiterating the Bush administration’s advocacy of abstinence education and challenging Secretary Powell’s endorsement of condom usage as effective protection against sexually transmitted diseases:

Well, Wolf, I think it was — given the enormous stature that Colin Powell rightly has, not only in America but in the world community, it was a sad day. I don’t think any administration has had a worse day since boxers and briefs on MTV. And the truth is that Colin Powell had an opportunity here to reaffirm this president’s commitment to abstinence as the best choice for our young people, and he chose not to do that in the first instance, but — and so I think it’s very sad. The other part is that, frankly, condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases, and in that sense, Wolf, this was — the secretary of state maybe inadvertently misleading millions of young people and endangering lives.

Reps. Pence and Schakowsky continued to debate abstinence education and the efficacy of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases:

PENCE: Well, I just simply believe the only truly safe sex, Wolf, as the president believes, is no sex. And we ought to, with leaders of the stature of the secretary of state, we ought to be sending a message to kids across the country and the opportunity had across the world that abstinence is the best choice for young people. But let’s be clear, last year, the National Institute of Health, Wolf, and some 28 separate experts said at least a half dozen to ten sexually transmitted diseases for which condom use has zero preventative value. [Colin Powell] is simply wrong.

SCHAKOWSKY: That’s like saying we shouldn’t [give] flu shots because it doesn’t protect against anything else. There are 34 million people in Sub Sahara and Africa alone who are infected with AIDS and millions more in the United States. We’re saying, let’s not make it any worse; we could make it better. This is one way to do it. Is it the cure all, is it the perfect solution? No, but it’s obviously something that will help. This is a — he was making a 21st century, humane and responsible answer to a 21st century problem.

PENCE: The problem is it was too modern of an answer, Wolf. It was — it truly was a modern, liberal answer to a problem that parents like me are facing all over America, and frankly, all over the world.

Rating this claim comes down to a matter of semantics. Yes, Mike Pence used the words “too modern” and “liberal” during the course of a discussion that encompassed condom use and stated that condoms are “very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.” However, he technically didn’t apply the words “modern” and “liberal” to condoms themselves (and wasn’t referencing them as a birth control device); rather, he described Colin Powell’s advocacy of condom use as a “too modern” and “liberal” answer to the problem of preventing sexually transmitted diseases.