'One American flag flies': Pence defends barring pride flags on U.S. embassy flagpoles

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By Kristen Welker and Josh Lederman  with NBC News Politics
Image: Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence during an event on the creation of a U. S. Space Force at the Pentagon on Aug. 9, 2018.   -   Copyright  Evan Vucci AP file

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence voiced support on Monday for the Trump administration's move to prohibit U.S. embassies overseas from flying the rainbow pride flag on embassy flagpoles during LGBTQ Pride Month, telling NBC News that "it's the right decision."

In an interview with White House correspondent Kristen Welker, Pence confirmed an exclusive report from NBC Newsthat said the State Department had rejected requests from at least four embassies to fly the flag during June. Pence said he was aware the State Department had said the American flag was the only flag that should fly on the flagpoles, and he added, "I support that."

"As the president said on the night we were elected, we're proud to be able to serve every American," Pence said when pressed about what he would say to the LGBTQ community that feels the decision runs counter to President Donald Trump celebrating pride month in a tweet?

"We both feel that way very passionately, but when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies," the vice president added.

Pence added that the Trump administration had "put no restrictions" on the pride flag or other flags flying elsewhere at U.S. embassies.

This month, American diplomatic posts have been flying the pride flag inside the embassy or putting banners up on the exterior walls of buildings, but requests to put it on the embassy flagpole as was done in years past have been rejected.

LGBTQ rights groups and some U.S. diplomats have raised concern about the decision and argued that it contradicts the Trump administration's claim to be a leader in promoting rights for LGBTQ people around the world.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, one of the ambassadors whose requests to fly the pride flag was rejected by Washington, is leading an administration campaign to decriminalize homosexuality around the world, and this month Trump even tweeted in support of LGBTQ Pride Month and the decriminalization campaign.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Monday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "respects the dignity of every individual" but did not believe other flags should fly alongside the American flag at embassies.

"The secretary has the position that as it relates to the flagpole that only the American flag should be flown there," Ortagus said.

In the interview Monday, Pence also wouldn't say whether Trump has read former special counsel Robert Mueller's report about Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and potential Trump campaign collusion.

And following the administration's announcement of a deal with Mexico on border security to avert tariffs threatened by Trump, Pence would not say whether Mexico will pay for the border wall the president hopes to build on the southern border, as he promised during the campaign.

"Let me say that the wall is being built," Pence said. "The president used his national emergency authority when the congress wouldn't give us all the resources we need. We're constructing a wall as we speak."