Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence blasted the Obama administration on Thursday over a $400 million payment to Iran, which occurred around the time four American prisoners were released, calling it "ransom" that "essentially put a price tag on every American traveling abroad."
But that straightforward message was overshadowed by running mate Donald Trump's repeated claim that he'd seen a video purporting to show the money being unloaded off a plane in Iran -- a video that does not exist.
The Indiana Governor was one of the first Republicans to seize the issue beginning on Tuesday night within hours of the initial Wall Street Journal report about the payment. Pence incorporated it into his stump speech at a Phoenix town hall that evening and has raised the issue up at every rally and town hall since then.
"They have violated long standing American policy about paying ransom and doing deals with terrorists," Pence explained to an audience in Virginia Beach on Thursday afternoon. His voice rising, he declared, "Let me say clearly in a Trump Pence administration we will not negotiate or compensate those who threaten our people in Trump administration we won't pay ransom to terrorists or those who support them, they will pay the price!"
President Obama disputes this interpretation of events.
"We do not pay ransom. We didn't here, and we won't in the future," he said as he tried to defend the transfer later that day at a press conference at the Pentagon. The $400 million was part of a larger settlement arising after Iranian government in the 1970's under the Shah purchased US military equipment never delivered as the result of the Iranian revolution.
Obama pointed out that the information about the payment was available earlier in the year and that "the only bit of news that is relevant on this is the fact that we paid cash" because of sanctions against the Iranian banking system.
At a rally in Daytona Beach, Florida on Wednesday, Donald Trump told a large audience that he had seen a professionally shot video of "money pouring off a plane" meant to embarrass the United States. CBS News later found the video Trump was referring to apparently does not exist.
Nonetheless, Trump repeated the claim again on Thursday at another rally in Portland, Maine.