The opening ceremonies of the Olympics last night in Pyeongchang were filled with sights both surprising and at times, confusing. North Korea and South Korea temporarily put aside their differences and stood together as a unified Korean team but it was U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's reaction to the Korean delegation's entrance that had most people talking.
The unified Korean team just entered the Olympic stadium. From where I was sitting, it looked everyone in the VIP b… https://t.co/5i6AP3WQeE— Anna Fifield (@Anna Fifield)1518179576.0
Speculation online was high as to whether Pence was sitting out the Korean team's entrance in honor of the American college student Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after being released from prison in North Korea last year, and in support of Warmbier's father, Fred who was also in attendance as a guest of the Vice President or if there was another reason.
Pence spoke about inviting Warmbier's father and what he felt it symbolized:
We are determined to make sure that even in the midst of the powerful background & idealism of the Olympics, the Wo… https://t.co/2GIUsYdYnx— Vice President Mike Pence (@Vice President Mike Pence)1518222393.0
Others thought Pence wanted to convey a specific message to North Korea:
Tonight @VP “could have sat with the US delegation and avoided the box but he chose not to...knowing the North Kore… https://t.co/oLz2SL4czh— Steve Herman (@Steve Herman)1518189092.0
Though Pence's Olympic visit has been peppered with political posturing targeted at North Korea, including a meeting Friday with North Korean defectors, the inclusion of Fred Warmbier, and his missed attendance a state dinner near the Olympics site, which some have speculated was done, at least in part, to avoid spending time with the North Korean delegation—there were those who disliked what they saw as unsportsmanlike behavior on the part of the VP:
@annafifield Pence is missing the point the olympics is not intended to be a political event or a place to show your opposition— Riki🌈🇨🇦🇺🇸 (@Riki🌈🇨🇦🇺🇸)1518197292.0
@Love4mine4ever @FfsKagawa @Ianmil @NBCOlympics That's literally the point of the Olympics too. For these two weeks… https://t.co/butOlvNwll— kyu (@kyu)1518289944.0
@AP_Sports talk abt disrespect. Pence and Trump have made such a huge deal that Some Americans don’t stand for the… https://t.co/rbrdvzJF9g— Elisabeth A Barker (@Elisabeth A Barker)1518192785.0
Others found the idea of a Pence protest hypocritical and drew parallels between the Vice President remaining seated in defiant protest (if, that was actually what he was doing) and the kneeling protests held by NFL players during performances of the national anthem on game day.
Taking time to reference his walkout on the kneeling protest at the Colts game back in October:
VP Mike Pence exited the @Colts game after several @49ers knelt during the national anthem. https://t.co/1C8oUj2tlv— Twitter Moments (@Twitter Moments)1507486654.0
huh. it's almost as if Mike Pence is cool with not standing at a sporting event as a form of protest...nah, that ca… https://t.co/4WBGqKj20q— way gayer, way different, way snipy (@way gayer, way different, way snipy)1518208890.0
@thehill Mike Pence: Hey NFL, keep your politics out of sports! Also Mike Pence : We should totally inject politics into the Olympics!— Brandon Horan (@Brandon Horan)1518206998.0
But there were also those that applauded Pence's actions:
@NBCOlympics Disrespectful to South Korea and the rest of Asia to see South Koreans have to walk under the same fla… https://t.co/KvzeJxoiEm— kaz (@kaz)1518235287.0
@FfsKagawa @NBCOlympics well said. And stop denigrating our president and vp. because we do not starve our citiz… https://t.co/ee1XOqmM9x— mc roux (@mc roux)1518314523.0
But according to an anonymous White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly but spoke to the Associated Press:
Pence stood only for the U.S. team, despite other people in the box standing and applauding when athletes from the two Koreas walked in together.
At Olympics opening ceremony, Pence refuses to stand for any country except the U.S. https://t.co/WWJW6XIvbD https://t.co/jI8AyLGGEw— ThinkProgress (@ThinkProgress)1518217211.0