President Joe Biden regretted releasing a vicious attack ad criticizing Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s experience when they were both running for president.
The story, reported in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book Peril, took place during the Democratic primary in 2000. At that point, Buttigieg had just finished his second term as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Biden had been a U.S. senator for over three decades and vice president for eight years, and the ad entitled “Pete’s Record” sarcastically highlighted the differences in their levels of experience.
It discussed Biden’s contributions to the Obama administration – and perhaps stretched them a bit – and then downplayed and mocked some of the community concerns Buttigieg responded to as mayor.
In one part, the ad said that Biden helped former President Barack Obama pass the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as vice president, and then said, “And when park-goers called on Pete Buttigieg, he installed decorative lights under bridges, giving citizens of South Bend colorfully illuminated rivers.”
“Both Vice President Biden and former Mayor Buttigieg have taken on tough fights,” the ad continued. “Under threat of a nuclear Iran, Joe Biden helped to negotiate the Iran deal.”
“And, under threat of disappearing pets, Buttigieg negotiated lighter licensing regulations on pet chip scanners.”
According to Woodward and Costa, Biden adviser Mike Donilon said that the ad should just be released online and to the media instead of spending money to air it on television.
“I hate it,” Biden reportedly said, while still approving it.
Six hours after the ad was released, Biden changed his mind, according to Woodward and Costa.
“Take it off,” the journalists say he said. “Take it back. I don’t want it airing any longer. Take it down!”
But at that point, it was online. And it’s still on YouTube today.
Biden and Buttigieg reportedly built a close relationship after Buttigieg dropped out of the primary and endorsed Biden. In March 2020, Biden said: “I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but he reminds me of my son Beau…. It’s the highest compliment I could give any man or woman.”
He was referring to Beau Biden, his son who passed away due to brain cancer in 2015.
In the month leading up to the election, Buttigieg proved to be one of the Biden/Harris campaign’s best surrogates, going viral with his no-nonsense responses to Republican talking points in appearances on Fox News.
This year, Biden nominated Buttigieg to run the Department of Transportation, making him the first out Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.