Former Vice President Mike Pence is facing criticism from the White House after he joked about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s paternity leave and postpartum depression.
Pence delivered remarks at the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner on Saturday night. The former vice president joked that Buttigieg’s two-month «maternity leave» to adopt newborn twins in 2021 with her husband led to transportation issues across the country last year, The Washington Post reported. reported.
«When Pete’s two children were born, he took two months of maternity leave, stranding thousands of travelers at airports, shutting down the air traffic system, and nearly colliding planes on our runways,» Pence said. according to the Post.
“Pete is the only person in human history to have had a child and everyone else has postpartum depression,” Pence added, the Post reported.
The White House issued a stern condemnation of Pence’s comments in a statement Monday.
«The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a joke,» White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. . statement.
«He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who have the right to be treated with dignity and respect,» she added.
Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, also rebuked Pence in a tweet Monday, along with a photo of the transportation secretary holding one of his newborns at the hospital.
Pence has not publicly responded to criticism of his comments at the dinner. His former chief of staff, Marc Short, dismissed the White House’s demand for an apology from the former vice president.
“The Biden administration should spare America the false outrage,” Short tweeted Monday afternoon.
Short noted the statements by Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly did at dinner, saying that Blinken, who is Jewish and the stepson of a Holocaust survivor, “joked that he longed for the ‘old days’ when ‘Jews did all the work.’”
“The White House would be wise to focus less on placating police and more on bank failures, plane near-misses, train derailments and the ongoing supply chain crisis,” Short said. .
Buttigieg has been an outspoken critic of Pence’s cultural and religious conservatism since his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Pence, the former governor of Indiana, shared state politics for four years. They had a cordial relationship at the time, having collaborated on economic development issues in the state.
But in his campaign memoirs, Buttigieg described his relationship with Pence as «complicated» as the gay mayor began to emerge as a celebrated voice for LGBTQ equality and religious tolerance on the campaign trail.
In an interview with CNBC in 2019, Pence said they had a «great working relationship» and criticized the mayor’s portrayal of his religious beliefs.
“He knows best,” Pence said in 2019. “He knows me.”