Lauren Boebert says GOP will investigate Pete Buttigieg’s train derailment response

Secretary Pete Buttigieg/Rep. Lauren Boebert
Secretary Pete Buttigieg/Rep. Lauren Boebert Photo: Shutterstock

Lauren Boebert (R-CO) says that House Republicans are set to launch a probe into Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s response to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ congresswoman, who has repeatedly attacked Buttigieg on Twitter, made the announcement via the social media platform on Monday.

Buttigieg has faced criticism from Republicans, much of it homophobic, for not visiting the site of the train derailment that occurred on February 3 sooner. The derailment released hazardous materials, potentially endangering the environment and health of local residents.

Earlier this month, Fox News host Tucker Carlson called the out Biden Administration official “flamboyantly incompetent.” Donald Trump Jr. suggested that Buttigieg’s only qualification for his job is that he is gay. A conservative political cartoonist drew Buttigieg with a giant butt in a cartoon about the derailment, and a GOP official called Buttigieg “Pete Buttplug.” In a related social media post, former President Donald Trump referred to the Secretary as Pete ‘BUTTedgeeddge.”

Meanwhile, as Fox News’s Steve Doocy inadvertently noted live on air last week, Trump Administration Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao never visited the site of a train derailment despite the numerous derailments and other accidents that occurred on her watch.

Boebert has been particularly relentless, tweeting about Buttigieg over half a dozen times since February 13. When the Secretary did visit East Palestine last Thursday, Boebert posted a tweet mocking his personal protective gear.

Early into her freshman year, Boebert insulted Buttigieg for taking “maternity leave” to “figure out how to chest feed” his children. She also accused Buttigieg of not doing his job because he was “producing an R-rated movie” while showing a clip of Pete and his husband Chasten Buttigieg touching pinkies, fully clothed.

As The Hill notes, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre criticized the recent attacks on Buttigieg as “pure politics.”

“There’s been a lot of bad faith attacks on Secretary Buttigieg,” she said, noting Chao’s record of never visiting a derailment site. “When there was these types of chemical spills, nobody was calling for her to be fired.” 

But Buttigieg has faced criticism on both sides of the aisle for waiting until February 14, ten days after the East Palestine derailment, which released toxins into the area, to address the situation.

He’s also been criticized for suggesting that Trump-era rollbacks of safety regulations were responsible for the derailment. In his February 14 tweet thread, Buttigieg wrote that “We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe.”

But analyses by both PolitiFact and The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” columnist Glenn Kessler determined that the Obama-era regulations rolled back during the Trump Administration would not have applied to the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine.

Speaking to George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America last week ahead of his trip to East Palestine, Buttigieg addressed criticism that he had not yet visited the site. “I was mayor of my hometown for eight years. We dealt with a lot of disasters, natural and human,” he said.

“And one of the things I noticed very quickly is that there’s two kinds of people who show up when you have that kind of disaster experience: people who are there because they have a specific job to do and are there to get something done and people who are there to look good and have their picture taken,” he continued, making a possible reference to Trump (R) who recently visited East Palestine to make a speech and hand out Trump-themed water bottles.

“When I go it will be about action on rail safety like we’re calling on Congress to help us with, that we’re calling on industry to take, and that we are undertaking ourselves as a department to help make sure that these kinds of things don’t happen in the future,” Buttigieg added.

Buttigieg also faces an audit of his use of government jets, the Transportation Department’s inspector general announced on Monday. The audit was originally requested by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FA) stemming from a December 2022 Fox News article, according to Politico.

“Glad this will be reviewed independently so misleading narratives can be put to rest,” Buttigieg tweeted in response. “Bottom line: I mostly fly on commercial flights, in economy class. And when I do use our agency’s aircraft, it’s usually a situation where doing so saves taxpayer money.”

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