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'There was no emergency callback': Why the abrupt cancellation of a Pence event prompted a frenzy of speculation

A grave-sounding announcement from a Pence official, coupled with events in Russia let to swirl of rumours.

THE CANCELLATION OF a scheduled appearance by US Vice President Mike Pence caused a storm of speculation online yesterday after he abruptly cancelled his trip over what was initially described as an “emergency”. 

The fact that Vladimir Putin also decided to cancel a planned event at the same time prompted a frenzy of speculation online. Representatives for Pence have been out to assure the public there’s no “cause for concern” since. 

But it’s not hard to see why people might have jumped to the conclusion that something significant may be afoot. 

In a dead serious tone, here’s how Pence’s representative broke the news of the event cancellation from the podium of the New Hampshire venue: 

“I do have some bad news at this point. Air Force Two was heading this way. There’s been an emergency call back. The Vice President was asked to return to Washington so at this time we’re going to cancel today’s event.”

We do have a situation and the Vice President was called back to Washington.

The Russian President also changed his plans to respond to the loss of 14 navy officers in submersible fire. 

Putin, who came under criticism for his handling of the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster in 2000 that killed 118 sailors, canceled a scheduled appearance and immediately summoned Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu for a briefing.

Speculation on any link between the two events was quickly downplayed by Pence’s officials.

“Something came up that required the @VP to remain in Washington, DC. It’s no cause for alarm. He looks forward to rescheduling the trip to New Hampshire very soon,” his Press Secretary Alyssa Farah wrote in a tweet.

Farah later tweeted that there had been no “emergency callback” and that Pence had never left Washington. 

CNN reported that a senior White House official said the reason for Pence’s return to the White House “is not health related for the VP or President” and is not “related to national security”.

An official close to the vice president told CNN that there was no emergency, saying, “the VP was called back to the White House but no cause for alarm”.

The meeting between Putin and his minister was televised in Russia. 

Putin ordered Shoigu to fly to the Arctic port of Severomorsk, the main base for Russia’s Northern Fleet where the vessel was brought, to oversee the investigation and report back to him personally.

The unusual confluence of events led to hours of speculation among US reporters and pundits on Twitter last night, and prompted coverage from dozens of national and local outlets on the Mike Pence ‘mystery’. 

- With reporting from Daragh Brophy & Associated Press. 

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