CARROLL, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg denounced advice from an attendee at a Democratic Party event in Iowa that he should tell “the black people of South Bend to stop committing crimes.”
The question came on Buttigieg’s first campaign swing through Iowa since the initial Democratic presidential debate, where the South Bend, Ind., mayor faced questions about how his city has handled issues of race and policing, particularly following the recent police shooting of a black man. Buttigieg has vowed to work to improve race relations in the city, and he has taken time off the campaign trail to listen to African Americans concerned with racial tensions in South Bend.
Buttigieg was taking questions at a Carroll County Democratic Party barbecue when the questioner, who identified himself in an interview as Dave Begley, turned the conversation to recent events in South Bend.
“Mayor Pete, there has been some controversy in South Bend between the police and the black community, and I have a solution for you, and I’d like you to make a comment on my proposal,” Begley said. “Just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crime and doing drugs.”
Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, shook their heads as boos rang out from the crowd.
“Sir, I think racism is not going to help us get out of this drama,” Buttigieg said.
“No no, just stop committing crimes,” Begley pressed. “It has nothing to do with race.”
“The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated as a white person for the exact same crime is evidence of systemic racism,” Buttigieg said, as the crowd clapped. “It is evidence of systemic racism and with all due respect sir, racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job too. It is a smear on law enforcement.”
Some in the crowd chanted “shame on you” at Begley.
Buttigieg didn’t allow a follow-up question, and Begley spent the rest of the event looking at his phone.
Begley said he was not a member of the Carroll County Democratic Party but he came to the event because he writes for the conservative Powerline blog and there would be a "full report on this."
Begley told reporters after the question-and-answer session said he resented Buttigieg’s response. Begley said he didn’t think his comment was racist.
“I just urged him in order to resolve the racial controversy in South Bend, is to urge the blacks in South Bend to obey the law so they’re not going to have confrontations with the police, and he dismissed me as a racist which I resented and he knows he’s wrong,” Begley said. “Because in Chicago 20 black people are probably going to get shot this weekend. I don’t think 20 black people should get shot.”