Team Pence Shrugs Off White House Fury After Homophobic Buttigieg Jokes

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Mike Pence’s ex-chief of staff hit back at the White House on Monday after the Biden administration demanded the former vice president apologize for “homophobic” remarks made over the weekend about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

While speaking at the black-tie Gridiron dinner on Saturday, Pence mocked Buttigieg for taking “two months’ maternity leave” after adopting twins with his husband in 2021. While Buttigieg was out of the office, the former vice president continued, “thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, and airplanes nearly collided on our runways.”

“Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression,” Pence joked.

In a statement issued earlier on Monday, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre slammed Pence for his words, deeming them “offensive and inappropriate.”

“The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline,” Jean-Pierre said. “He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Marc Short, Pence’s aide and former chief of staff, then tweeted, “The Biden administration should spare America the faux outrage.”

“The hypocrisy is especially rich,” he continued, “considering their own Secretary of State Antony Blinken joked that he yearned for ‘the old days’ when ‘Jews did all the work.’” (It was not immediately clear when or if Blinken, who is the son of Jewish parents and the stepson of a Holocaust survivor, said this.)

In another tweet, Short sniped, “The White House would be wise to focus less on placating the woke police and focus more on bank failures, planes nearly colliding in mid-air, train derailments, and the continued supply chain crisis.”

Short did not respond to Buttigieg’s husband, who on Monday afternoon addressed Pence in a tweet of his own. “An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend,” Chasten Buttigieg wrote above a photo of the transportation secretary holding one of their newborns in a hospital.

“If your grandchild was born prematurely and placed on a ventilator at two months old—their tiny fingers wrapped around yours as the monitors beep in the background—where would you be?”

After their premature birth, the Buttigiegs’ twins, Penelope and Gus, spent two weeks in hospital, eventually developing the respiratory virus RSV. Shortly after, Gus’ condition deteriorated and he was placed on a ventilator.

“Parenting is lots of things, and one of those things is terror,” Buttigieg wrote in a Medium post last year. “You watch your infant, sedated and surrounded by wires and tubes and monitors and medical personnel coming and going constantly, and wonder how we could live in a universe where a few weeks could be all that a child gets on this earth.”

Both children eventually recovered, and celebrated their first birthday in August.

Lis Smith, an aide who worked on Buttigieg’s unsuccessful presidential bid in 2020, called Pence an “unambiguous asshole” on Twitter. On Monday, she told Politico that his comments were “gross and hardly in line with the upright, Christian image he tries to project.”

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