US President Donald Trump joked during the campaign that Vice President Mike Pence wants to "hang" gays, according to a new report.
The anecdote is included in a magazine article about Pence who is considered a key force in the administration, and whose deep conservative roots helped assuage financial backers and base voters when Trump got the GOP nomination.
Pence regularly praises Trump publicly, and the president has publicly praised his selection of a running mate as a top decision.
But during one campaign meeting with a legal scholar reported by The New Yorker, Trump made light of Pence's reputation on gay issues - he had signed a tough Indiana law that was called discriminatory and brought boycotts.
When gay rights came up, Trump turned to Pence and said: '"Don't ask that guy-he wants to hang them all!"
The account also has Trump - who has been photographed praying in the Oval Office -making fun of his vice president's religosity.
A campaign staffer told the publication that when people met with Trump after seeing Pence, he would ask, '"Did Mike make you pray?"
Another account depicts Trump making fun of Pence's drive to repeal the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade.
When the legal scholar pointed out that Supreme Court action would lead many states to legalise abortion, Trump reportedly told Pence: "You see?" Trump asked Pence. "You've wasted all this time and energy on it, and it's not going to end abortion anyway."
Pence is getting increased attention days after a Democrat called for his impeachment, and stumbles have increased the chance Democrat gain control of the House - though Trump's opponents would face extremely difficult challenges trying to remove him from office.
"Trump thinks Pence is great," former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told the magazine.
Pence, 58, was described by Joel Goldstein, a historian and an expert on vice presidents, as becoming the "Sycophant-in-Chief".
Last week the vice president stood up and left an American Football game after the players kneeled for the national anthem in a move which pleased the president, but angered critics asking how much taxpayer cash was spent on the stunt.
Bannon, who is waging war on the GOP establishment, noted Pence's connections to the ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers - immensely powerful Republican donors, who back Pence.
"I'm concerned he'd be a President that the Kochs would own" Bannon said.
A recent analysis by the Checks & Balances Project found that 16 high-ranking officials in the Trump White House had ties to the Kochs, and Pence reportedly consulted with Charles Koch before hiring his speechwriter, Stephen Ford.
Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat senator from Rhode Island, said: "If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers- period. He's been their tool for years."
Since the inauguration, Pence has orchestrated Bible study sessions for Cabinet members in the White House, attended by Betsy DeVos, the education secretary; Mike Pompeo, head of the CIA, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general.
The meetings are led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger, who wrote in 2004: "Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God's revealed design for them. It is a sin."
Drollinger describes Catholicism as "a false religion," calls homosexuality "a sin," and believes that a wife must "submit" to her husband.
Alyssa Farah, Mr Pence's press secretary, said: "The New Yorker piece is filled with unsubstantiated, unsourced claims that are untrue and offensive.
"Articles like this are why the American people have lost so much faith in the press."
- with Daily Telegraph