March 3, 2020 / 4:08 PM / a month ago

True claim: Mike Pence touched NASA hardware with a sign that said "Do Not Touch"

Accounts on Facebook have recently been sharing an article by TIME magazine from July 2017 that claims Vice President Mike Pence touched a "critical space flight hardware" that had a "do not touch" sign on it (see: here).​

The original photograph was taken by Reuters and has the following caption: ​

"Vice President Mike Pence touches a piece of hardware with a warning label "Do Not Touch" next to Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana during a tour of the Operations and Checkout Building in Florida July 6, 2017. Pence visited after being named to lead the revived National Space Council. REUTERS/Mike Brown" (see here)​

The article references Pence's tweet addressing the situation – it shows an edited version of the photograph, where everything but Marco Rubio's head with a red circle around him is blurred out. His tweet reads, "Sorry @NASA...@MarcoRubio dared me to do it!" (see here)​

Pence caught on to the humorous response the tweet triggered. He followed up with another edited version of the photograph of him touching a porcupine instead of the hardware with the caption: "Okay...so this isn't exactly the first time this has happened."​ (see here)

Marco Rubio joined the teasing and responded to the tweet by saying: "In fairness, I warned @VP that "you break it, you own it"" (see here) ​

NASA responded to the exchange by saying, "It was OK to touch the surface. Those are just day-to-day reminder signs. We were going to clean it anyway. It was an honor to host you!"​ (see here)

The 2017 photograph likely began to re-circulate on social media after President Trump announced Pence will be the lead in the response to the coronavirus response in the U.S. (see here ). Social media users are using this photograph as a way to question the Vice President’s ability to perform adequately in this new role. Examples of this assumption can be seen here: here and here: here

The original photograph of Pence touching the critical space flight hardware is authentic and was not edited in any way. It can be found on our website here ​NASA confirmed this wasn’t dangerous or inappropriate. VERDICT

True: Mike Pence did touch the NASA hardware with the “do not touch” sign on it, though this was not dangerous in any way

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