After making a homophobic joke at the expense of out Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and then getting called out for it, Mike Pence is now using an old bullying tactic to lash out at Buttigieg instead of apologizing: He’s saying Pete doesn’t have a sense of humor.
Two weeks ago at the Gridiron Club dinner, Pence joked that Buttigieg went on “maternity leave” in 2021 as Buttigieg took some time off to care for his premature twins.
“When Pete’s two children were born, he took two months maternity leave, where upon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, aeroplanes nearly collided in midair,” Pence said. Saying Buttigieg went on “maternity” instead of “paternity leave” or “family leave” is a reference to Buttigieg’s sexuality. Many on the right have already told this joke, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and even The National Review.
While Buttigieg hasn’t said anything about the joke publicly yet, his husband Chasten Buttigieg tweeted a response last week.
“An honest question for you, Mike Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend,” Chasten Buttigieg wrote. “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 White House also called on him to apologize “to women and LGBTQ+ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Instead of apologizing and showing that he learned something from the rather gentle response to his joke, Pence doubled down.
“I directed a lot of jokes to Republicans and Democrats,” he told WMUR last Thursday. “The only thing I can figure, Pete Buttigieg not only can’t do his job but he can’t take a joke.”
Chasten Buttigieg said that he’s not expecting Pence to apologize.
“The thing about what he said is, it flies in the face of what he says he is,” he said on The View last week. “He says he’s a family values Republican.”
“But it’s part of a much bigger trend: attacking families. And it wasn’t just about attacking the LGBTQ community, because someone wrote this and he checked it and purposely said, ‘maternity leave’ rather than ‘paternity leave,’ but also, it’s a bigger conversation about the work that women do in families, right? Taking a swipe at all women in all families, and expecting that women would stay at home and raise children I think is a pretty misogynistic view, especially from a man who just last year said that we should be supporting more people who adopt.”
Pence was governor of Indiana when Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Buttigieg has called out Pence’s anti-LGBTQ+ actions in the past.
During the Democratic presidential primaries in 2019, Buttigieg said that Pence’s Christianity isn’t about “protecting the stranger and the prisoner and the poor person” but “sexuality and a certain view of rectitude.”
“But even if you buy into that, how could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency?” Buttigieg said at the time. “Is it that he stopped believing in Scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?”
Buttigieg attacked Pence’s long history of opposition to LGBTQ+ equality during the campaign as well, saying that his “marriage to Chasten has made me a better man.
“And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.”
“That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand, that if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator,” he continued. “Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade.”
Pence responded by accusing Buttigieg – who is Christian – of attacking his Christian faith.
“He’s said some things that are critical of my Christian faith and about me personally. And he knows better,” Pence told CNBC at the time. “He knows me.”