Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaks at an Indianapolis news conference on April 29, 2013. Pence said in June that "the people of Indiana should have their say about how marriage is understood and defined in our state." Some Facebook users who left comments disagreeing with Pence's views on gay marriage say that's exactly what they were trying to do when they were shut out from commenting on Pence's official page.(Photo: Michelle Pemberton, The Indianapolis Star)
By Jon Murray, The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Mike Pence admitted Friday that some angry constituents were right.
of the hundreds of comments that his staff deleted from the Indiana
governor's official Facebook page this week were targeted, Pence said,
because they expressed disagreement with his opposition to gay marriage.
And that went beyond the office's internal policy of removing only profane, inflammatory or uncivil comments, Pence concluded.
the governor issued an apology Friday on Facebook, saying his office
would review its practices and soon post a formal standard of conduct
prominently on the site to make the rules of the engagement clear.
expect our public debate to be open and respectful and we will ever
seek to live up to that standard," he said. "In agreement or
disagreement, I respect the opinions and the freedoms of all the people
The mea culpa followed two days of assertions by the
governor and his office that staff members were removing only comments
that were profane or uncivil.
The Indianapolis Star was
first to report Wednesday that some commenters suspected their
contributions were being deleted only because they opposed the governor,
not because they were disrespectful.
On Friday, Pence said they were right.
careful review, it (appears) ... some comments were being deleted
simply because they expressed disagreement with my position," Pence said
in the statement. "I regret that this occurred and sincerely apologize
to all those who were affected."
The Republican governor's statement received a lukewarm response from some of the commenters whose posts were deleted.
all very official and all very by the book," said Beth Hollandbeck
Barnes, 44, who lives in Brownsburg. "But what it doesn't contain for me
is any true sense of contriteness for the people, like me, who had the
feeling of being shut down because we disagreed with him."
Wednesday comment - captured by another commenter in a screen grab
before its deletion - asked Pence, in part, to explain to three of her
children why their 18-year-old brother, who is gay, "doesn't deserve the
same rights they do."
Local political blogger and attorney Paul
Ogden offered a different take on Pence's apology, crediting him for
admitting he was wrong.
"People can be surprisingly forgiving when
politicians are willing to admit they are human and make mistakes,"
Ogden wrote on his blog, called Ogden on Politics. "Governor Pence
initially stumbled in his response to the Facebook deletions, but today
he hit the ball out of the park with a classy apology."
Still, others felt no apology was necessary.
need for apologies," John Collins wrote on Pence's Facebook page. "It's
his page. He can delete whatever or whoever he wants. No different than
any of you controlling your own fb page. It's fb, not life or death
Some created new online outlets to criticize the governor.
A Facebook page called "I Got Blocked By Governor Mike Pence for stating my Opinion" notched more than 1,000 "likes" by Friday.
since Thursday, www.pencership.com - a name that blends Pence with
"censorship" - has been collecting screen grabs of comments that later
were deleted from Pence's Facebook page. That site was created by
Indianapolis Web designer Andrew Markle.
Pence spokeswoman Kara
Brooks said users whose commenting privileges were suspended this week
were "unblocked" from the governor's Facebook page Friday.
said the entire governor's office staff is responsible for overseeing
the Facebook page, adding: "The issue was discussed with the staff, and
corrections have been made."
Some of the deleted comments veered
into name-calling, but Barnes was among many who said theirs expressed
respectful disagreement with Pence.
Those comments were among more
than 1,000 made by Facebook users after the posting Wednesday of a
statement by Pence responding to the two U.S. Supreme Court decisions
concerning gay marriage.
One requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in places where it's legal.
law says marriage is only between a man and a woman. Pence affirmed his
support for that idea, and he joined some legislative leaders in
renewing a push to place a state constitutional amendment banning gay
marriage and civil unions on the 2014 ballot.
officials, according to legal experts, potentially risk running afoul of
the U.S. Constitution if they remove critical comments with too heavy
of a hand on a Facebook page that could be considered a public forum.
said his office's still-developing standard of conduct for commenting
on his Facebook page would be similar to policies used by other elected
officials and news organizations.
Contributing: Chris Sikich of The Star