Coda Story / Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images
Trump supporters are casting Mike Pence as a modern-day Judas
After declaring Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election, the devout Christian vice president has found himself compared to the Bible’s most infamous figure
While governor of Indiana, Vice-President Mike Pence was known for keeping an open Bible on his desk. At the White House, he was the most senior member of the U.S. cabinet’s first scripture study group in at least 100 years. Yet, after declaring Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election, the man widely considered to be President Donald Trump’s most pious and devoted disciple is now being cast as the ultimate betrayer of the MAGA cause.
On January 6, with a single vote, Pence found himself at the center of a whirlwind of conspiracy theories that has only grown in intensity since that day’s breach of the Capitol by an armed mob of Trump supporters. Many of the narratives circulating online have cast him as the New Testament’s most infamous figure.
“He is Judas now,” said Alexander Reid Ross, a doctoral fellow at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right.
Ross has been monitoring far-right disinformation on 4chan and other online channels following the unprecedented scenes in Washington, D.C. He pointed to a 4chan post about Pence that read, “Before the Last Supper, Judas went to the chief priests and agreed to hand over Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins.”
It is just one of hundreds of similarly worded messages posted over the past 72 hours, obsessing over an image of Pence being handed what appears to be a coin after his speech. Trump supporters have referred to it as “Masonic” and claimed that the exchange was a symbolic payment for Pence’s actions.
“What’s so hard to understand? Pence sold out America, Trump and Jesus and they gave him a neat little token in return,” wrote one user on a 4chan thread dedicated to “Mike Thirty Pieces of Silver Pence.”
Pence may have considered his role as vice-president to be “a divine appointment,” but some White House observers have long prophesized an uncomfortable end to his time in office.
Back in 2018, Kate Andersen Brower published a prescient profile in Vanity Fair. It included the lines, “Such is the agony and the ecstasy of Mike Pence, Trump’s most faithful servant, and the man who many in Washington D.C, suspect could one day become his Judas.”
The conspiracy theories now surrounding Pence accuse his security detail of shooting Ashli Babbitt, the air force veteran and QAnon supporter killed inside the Capitol. Pence has been labeled a ringleader of a revolution against Trump. His newly declared enemies have also dug up a 2017 Twitter warning from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Trump, claiming that Pence was at the center of a White House takeover plot with Hillary Clinton.
According to Ross, “Everything is folded into the current moment. Trump put the target on his back. You have an authoritarian leader singling out his right-hand man to the mob. Then you have the grassroots echo chamber reverberating around. Everything and anything can be blamed on Pence.”
The chaos and volatility that led to the January 6 incursion continues to rage online, particularly among QAnon supporters. They are aggrieved because they previously believed that Pence would override the election, despite that scenario being legally impossible, and kick off a civil war. Now, they are casting the devout Christian VP at the heart of Q’s Satanic child abuse narrative.
“I’m critical of everything that I hear, but, from a lot of sources, I’ve heard that,” said Trump supporter Tom Groves to NBC, stating his belief that Pence is a pedophile and a member of the “deep state.”
Then there’s Pence the communist. In a post on the right-wing social media platform Parler, the prominent QAnon-supporting attorney L. Lin Wood told his 1.1 million-strong following, “Good Afternoon!!! I am hearing rumors that Pence & leaders of the coup are planning to arrest & execute President Trump & his followers. Typical move by Communist tyrants.”
The story you just read is a small piece of a complex and an ever-changing storyline we are following as part of our coverage. These overarching storylines — whether the disinformation campaigns that are feeding the war on truth or the new technologies strengthening the growing authoritarianism, are the crises that Coda covers relentlessly and with singular focus. But we can’t do it without your help. Support journalism that stays on the story.