Conservatives slammed Pence in 2015 for changing law


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence faced a firestorm of criticism three years ago after signing a "religious freedom" law critics decried as anti-gay.

Now emails released this week to The Associated Press illustrate similar backlash from fellow conservatives when the eventual vice president agreed to change the law in the face of widespread boycott threats.

"Indiana is fronted by a coward," reads a March 31 email to Pence's office, which was among more than 1,400 pages of documents obtained under Indiana's public records law. "I just watched your boss throw the ENTIRE Christian population in America under the Left's Gay Extortion Bus."

The correspondence from Pence's official and private email accounts, which the AP first requested when he joined President Donald Trump's campaign, offer a window into one of the most challenging periods of his political career.

It was a time when Pence – who describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order" – came under intense pressure from moderate Republicans, as well as the state's business community to act in the face of a growing public relations crisis.

It's unclear how many of Pence's emails are being withheld, including those sent from a private AOL.com email address he used to conduct state business. Indiana's open records law gives government officials wide latitude to do so. More than 1,300 pages of records that were previously released largely consist of correspondence from staffers sharing press releases, news articles or laudatory notes from Pence's fans.

Many of the messages between Pence and his top aides are redacted. But emails spanning from March to July 2015 do offer a glimpse of his administration's efforts to battle back against negative headlines from the "religious freedom" law, while closely tracking what conservatives had to say about Pence, who harbored presidential ambitions.

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