Chasten Buttigieg Calls Out Mike Pence for Crude Joke Targeting His Family

Tuesday March 14, 2023

Chasten and Pete Buttigieg
Chasten and Pete Buttigieg  (Source:AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

"Family values" fell by the wayside as Mike Pence took aim at Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg with homophobic jokes about Buttigieg taking paternity leave, which included time spent at his child's bedside as the infant struggled with a serious illness.

BuzzFeed reported that Buttgieg's husband, Chasten, called Pence out for the crude attempts at anti-gay humor.

"At the Gridiron Dinner, a white-tie event for politicians and media figures where speakers usually deliver funny remarks, Pence mocked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for taking 'maternity leave' after he and his husband adopted newborns in September 2021," BuzzFeed recounted.

The article quoted Pence as saying at the March 11 event, "Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression" — evidently, a swipe at the brief disruption in air travel that occurred in January due to a software glitch. The snafu, far from becoming the sort of cascading, days-long crisis that a software failure caused for Southwest Airlines not long before, was swiftly resolved, but right-wing politicians and pundits were quick to heap blame on Buttigieg.

That was part and parcel for how the GOP has taken every opportunity to knock Buttigieg, and Pence's mischaracterization of the family time the transportation secretary took away from work as "maternity leave" fell to an even lower level, given that the Buttigieg's twin infants were born prematurely, then were diagnosed with the respiratory ailment RSV, with one infant requiring hospitalization.

"For us it just meant a nasty cold, but for premature infants like them it was a serious threat," BuzzFeed recalled Buttigieg saying at the time.

Not that Pence took it seriously.

Chasten Buttigieg, who in the past has stood up to right-wing smears against his husband, himself, and their family, gave Pence a Twitter tongue lashing.

"An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend," Chasten tweeted. "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?"

The post showed Pete Buttigieg tending to his infant child in a medical setting.

Chasten wasn't through with Pence, though. He followed up with a second post that linked to an essay about their experience as parents.

"I'll leave this here for you should you want to know more about the kids you are so eager to use as a punchline," Chasten posted.

Chasten Buttigieg wasn't alone in reading Pence for filth, BuzzFeed noted. Liz Smith, a staffer from Buttigieg's 2020 run at the Democratic nomination for president — a bid he eventually stepped back from to allow Joe Biden a clear field — also had choice words for the man who once served as vice president to Donald Trump.

BuzzFeed relayed that "White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also weighed in, calling on Pence to apologize."

Jean-Pierre excoriated Pence's tasteless jest as "offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline.

"He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect," Jean-Pierre added.

Pence followed the GOP pattern of tossing out inflammatory comments and then doubling down, with a spokesperson, Marc Short, dismissing the reactions as "faux outrage" and dismissing critics of the former vice president as "the woke police." Short also tweeted that the Biden administration should "focus more on bank failures, planes nearly colliding in mid-air, train derailments, and the continued supply chain crisis."

Even there, however, sharp comebacks were the order of the day.