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Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, criticised Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Friday, after the anchor incorrectly accused the Biden official of never explaining why he kept his sexuality private during the earlier parts of his career.
“This kind of rhetoric is easy. It’s so easy to attack people and to go on your talk show and fire people up about something that’s not actually happening,” Chasten Buttigieg told CNN.
“I love my husband,” he added. “I know he’s a committed public servant and he has everyone’s best interests at heart. I just think these people, again with these megaphones — they have to have a big platform and rather than focusing on real issues, people’s lives, making them better, they’ve decided to focus on hate.”
The Fox News host’s original comments were part a larger homophobic rant against the Transportation Secretary, just days after a mass shooting at an LGBT+ club left five people dead and more than a dozen injured.
On Wednesday, the Fox News host’s tirade against the former South Bend mayor began while he was discussing the overall response to the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs this past Saturday. During that tragic event, a gunman opened fire at the LGBT+ safe haven before he was subdued by two citizens at the venue.
Two days after the violent assault at the Colorado club, Mr Buttigieg denounced the mass shooting and the ongoing political discourse that attacks the LGBT+ community.
“It was a place of belonging, it was a place of community. And it came under attack – at a time when the entire LGBTQ community is coming under attack,” Mr Buttigieg, who is gay, told CBS News. “And if anybody claims to be surprised that political attacks on a community that doesn’t hurt anybody are sometimes followed by violent physical attacks on that same community, I just don’t think they’re being honest.”
Mr Carlson, who has a history of going after the transportation secretary, challenged Mr Buttigieg’s remarks and his linking it to the very kind of rhetoric that the Fox host has been accused of using on his own program.
“Pete Buttigieg, of course, couldn’t pass up a moment like this,” Carlson said. “It’s not like Pete Buttigieg wants to talk about how things are going over at the Transportation Department, which he supposedly runs. No, Pete Buttigieg wants to talk about identity. He always wants to talk about identity. And the funny, ironic thing is, until just a few years ago, Buttigieg wouldn’t even admit that he was gay. He hid that and then lied about it for reasons he has never been asked to explain. Why not?”
While Mr Carlson was perhaps attempting to call the former mayor out for hypocrisy, his conclusion was incorrect. Mr Buttigieg has explained on multiple occasions why he didn’t come out publicly during the early parts of his career as a civil servant.
In 2015, while the mayor of South Bend, Mr Buttigieg explained in an article published with the South Bend Tribune that he was “well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay,” adding that “it took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life”.
“Putting something this personal on the pages of a newspaper does not come easy,” he said. “But it’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good. For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her.”
He’s also explained how in other settings, including in 2020 when he mounted his bid for the White House with the Democratic Party, living as an elected official in a state where Mike Pence was governor stirred up a certain kind of “fear” inside that by even just acknowledging who he was “was going to be the ultimate, career-ending professional setback.”
Mr Buttigieg, who served in the military from 2009 to 2017 as an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve, has also acknowledged that the discriminatory “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy ban on openly LGBT+ service members was still in effect when he joined the ranks.
This is hardly the first time that Mr Carlson has taken a public swipe at Mr Buttigieg’s sexuality. Back in October 2021, Mr Carlson derided Mr Buttigieg for making the decision to take paternity leave to care for his adopted twins with his husband, Chasten Buttigieg.
Mr Carlson mocked Mr Buttigieg in a segment where he suggested that the Democrat, who is male, would have spent the time “trying to figure out how to breastfeed”.
“No word on how that went,” he added.
For his part, Mr Buttigieg took the higher road by shooting back in an interview shortly after Carlson’s segment aired by simply saying: “I guess he just doesn’t understand the concept of bottle feeding, let alone the concept of paternity leave.”