The XX Factor

How Do We All Feel About Mike Pence Allegedly Calling His Wife “Mother”?

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence takes the oath of office as his wife Karen “Mother” Pence holds the Bible on Friday in Washington, D.C.

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Rolling Stone published a long piece about Vice President Mike Pence’s record in Indiana on Monday. As disturbing as the facts you likely already knew about Pence are—his anti-LGBTQ history, his opposition to reproductive rights, his fealty to his religion over the Constitution—they turn out to be merely the tip of an appalling iceberg: He also did little to stop an HIV outbreak in his state and refused to visit a community affected by a serious lead poisoning crisis while he was governor. That was after he paid his mortgage and bought groceries with congressional campaign funds and declared global warming a myth. But somehow, those might not be the worst revelations in this article. Because it also reveals that Pence calls his wife, Karen, mother:

While Mike Pence was governor, his relationship with the Democratic minority in the legislature was crap. Someone on his staff suggested having the Democratic leaders over to the governor’s mansion for dinner. The table was set for 20, but there were only around seven in attendance. One unlucky legislator stuck next to Pence tried to make conversation, but found even at dinner she couldn’t shift Pence off his talking points. Gov. Pence shouted to his wife, Karen, his closest adviser, at the other end of the table.

“Mother, Mother, who prepared our meal this evening?”

The legislators looked at one another, speaking with their eyes: He just called his wife “Mother.”

Maybe it was a joke, the legislator reasoned. But a few minutes later, Pence shouted again.

“Mother, Mother, whose china are we eating on?”

Mother Pence went on a long discourse about where the china was from. A little later, the legislators stumbled out, wondering what was weirder: Pence’s inability to make conversation, or calling his wife “Mother” in the second decade of the 21st century.

The mother story is carefully unsourced in the Rolling Stone piece, so unless anyone has caught Pence calling his wife mother on tape (if you do, email us at, we’ll have to take it with a grain of salt. Perhaps he meant something else? Maybe the legislators misheard him and he was saying muva, which is model and entertainer Amber Rose’s fun catchphrase for empowered women like herself. Though Pence’s politics more closely align with Kanye’s, if anything. Honestly, does mother sound like the kind of creepy thing “a silver-haired man resembling the guy on top of a wedding cake,” as the Rolling Stone article describes him, would say? It sure does.

Many mothers and fathers refer to each other as mom and dad around their kids, but usually they have enough self-awareness to adapt to different audiences. Even if it’s a regional thing or an old-fashioned thing, it was weird enough to freak out, allegedly, the Indiana legislators who witnessed it that night. Part of why it’s strange is that it sounds incestuous: Is his wife also his mother? Or does he think the world revolves around him and we’re all his children? And Pence doesn’t just call his wife mother—he calls her mother, mother, while demanding answers about food and china. Knowing what we do about how much respect Mike Pence has for women’s rights, treating your wife like a subhuman, sexless domestic servant sounds about right.

Recently, Pence tweeted about picking up ice cream for his wife. In the tweets, he called her Mrs. Pence. An improvement over mother, but still the kind of thing a pod person doing a bad job pretending to be a human might say. Isn’t that just like a typical man, also, to pretend it was the wife who requested the ice cream? Like you won’t be partaking from that carton either, big boy. Ice cream is exactly like birth control in this instance.

Another interesting fact to know about the Pences is that before Mike proposed to Karen, she started carrying around a gold cross with the word yes on it. Oh, mother. Not to be outcreeped, Mike brought along two loaves of bread when the two were duck-hunting one day. He hollowed each of them out to conceal a bottle of champagne and a ring box. Was it white bread, to symbolize their heritage? The New York Times leaves this detail out. Some would find this romantic; others would be reminded of the time they needed to buy Tupperware because mice were getting into their bread. And more questions arise—did Mike scoop out the bread and throw it out, the way he threw out $80 million in federal pre-K funding in Indiana, or did he binge like a friendly bear in a children’s book? Picture it, a mid-’80s Pence, hair not yet gray, furiously scarfing down Wonder Bread while he fantasizes about proposing to the woman he will one day call mother. That man is our vice-president.