Buttigieg defends taking hubby on gov’t plane: ‘Why is it any different when it’s me and my husband?’

As the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg has earned mountains of criticism since taking office for everything from taking a lengthy paternity leave as supply lines crumbled to, most recently, a disastrous holiday travel performance from Southwest Airlines. His own travel arrangements came under fire when he was joined by his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, on board a military aircraft as part of a U.S. delegation to the 2021 Invictus Games in the Netherlands.

Buttigieg joined Fox News’ Bret Baier on “Special Report” on Thursday to explain why all of the criticism is “nonsense” and some of it is just plain homophobic.

(Video: Fox News)

“I want to deal with a couple of controversies getting attention from critics,” Baier told his guest. “Basically, they are saying that you kept a low profile during the Southwest debacle. Never did a press conference from the Transportation Department. You were in Portugal during the rail strike crisis. You were on paternity leave during the 2021 supply chain crisis. This is what they say. How do you address that criticism?”

“Sure,” Buttigieg retorted. “It’s nonsense.”

“It’s nonsense,” he repeated. “Let’s start with the supply chain crisis. I worked that issue before, during, and after the time that I was focusing on my children. Before, during, and after their hospitalization. And what happened with that supply chain crisis? Well, before the holidays last year, there were all kinds of news organizations, not just this one, running stories, saying Christmas was going to be canceled.”

“What actually happened?” he asked. “An all-time record high in terms of the amount of goods moving through our ports and in terms of retail sales that year.”

He then pivoted to the rail strike, which, as BizPac Review reported at the end of November, forced President Biden to call on Congress “to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.”

The move trampled on the authority of the labor unions and was considered a failure of the White House to successfully negotiate an acceptable deal.

“Joe Biden blew it,” said Railroad Workers United (RWU) union treasure Hugh Sawyer in a statement. “He had the opportunity to prove his labor-friendly pedigree to millions of workers by simply asking Congress for legislation to end the threat of a national strike on terms more favorable to workers. Sadly, he could not bring himself to advocate for a lousy handful of sick days.”

None of it was his fault, according to Buttigieg, who insisted he was “on the ground” during the looming crisis… except for the bit when he wasn’t.

“Let’s do the rail strike,” he said. “So the legislation passed in December and in the days and weeks leading up to that legislation passing, I was on the ground. I was on Capitol Hill. I was on the phone working that issue. Not solo. As part of a team with other cabinet secretaries, under leadership of the president to get that done.”

“Two months before that,” he continued, “there was the tentative agreement. And in the days leading up to that where was I? On the ground, on the phone. I think the night before the tentative agreement I remember going to bed at 1:00 and being back up to check my phone at 4:00.”

Setting the record straight is “really important,” Buttigieg argued, because “there are people out there with a straight face denying that I was on the ground in the United States working this issue in the days leading up to the tentative agreement and then, later, on the bill.”

“Now, it is true that, like a lot of people in Washington, in late August, I was ready to get out of Washington for a few days, and I did,” the former mayor conceded. “But in a job like mine, even if you are on vacation, even if it’s a holiday, even if you are on leave or a week out or whatever, you are always available, because the job is 24/7.”

 

Baier then struck a nerve by mentioning the controversy over Buttigieg’s spouse, Chasten, and that trip to the Netherlands.

“You also brought your husband Chasten on a military aircraft to attend a sporting event in the Netherlands,” he said.

“That’s quite a spin to put on it,” Buttigieg shot back.

“Was that reimbursed?” the Fox News host asked. “Because that was one of the controversies.”

Reimbursed? Taxpayer money? You must be joking.

And if you think it should have been, you need to check your homophobic ways.

“Of course not,” Buttigieg replied. “I led a presidential delegation to support American wounded warriors and injured service members – the Invictus Games as has been tradition for many years. I led the American delegation as one of the great honors of my time in this job. And the diplomatic protocol on a presidential delegation is that the principal is often accompanied by their spouse. It was a great trip. Incredible.”

“Here’s what I want you to understand,” the transportation secretary informed Baier. “Before me, it was the secretary of the Army under President Trump who took that trip with his wife. Before that, it was Mrs. Trump as first lady who went to the Invictus Games. Before that, Mrs. Obama did the same thing. And I guess the question on my mind is, if no one’s raising questions about why Secretary Esper and his wife led that delegation, as well they should have, then why is it any different when it’s me and my husband?”

To that, Baier seemed to have no solid follow-up.

“Understood,” he replied.

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