“When Pete’s two children were born, he took two months’ maternity leave whereupon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, and airplanes nearly collided on our runways,” Pence said.
“Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression,” Pence added.
In a statement Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre blasted Pence for making a homophobic joke about Buttigieg, who is the first openly gay Cabinet secretary in U.S. history, and for using postpartum depression “as a punchline.”
“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 punchline,” Jean-Pierre said. “He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”
An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend. 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? pic.twitter.com/pCWvl8pb5N
— Chasten Buttigieg (@Chasten) March 13, 2023
Buttigieg’s husband called Pence out on Monday as well, addressing the former vice president in a Twitter post that included a photo of the transportation secretary holding one of their newborns in the hospital.
“An honest question for you … after your attempted joke this weekend,” Chasten Buttigieg tweeted. “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?”
Pence, who has been exploring a run for president, has not publicly addressed his remarks since the dinner, but his former chief of staff, Marc Short, doubled down on them Monday, scoffing at the White House’s call for an apology.
“The Biden administration should spare America the faux outrage,” Short tweeted early Monday afternoon.
He noted that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who also spoke at the Gridiron dinner, had joked Saturday night about yearning for “the old days” when “Jews did all the work.”
“The hypocrisy is especially rich,” Short added. “The White House would be wise to focus less on placating the woke police and focus more on bank failures, planes nearly colliding in midair, train derailments, and the continued supply chain crisis.”
(Blinken was born to Jewish parents and is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor.)
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Pence, the state’s former governor, have previously clashed over Pence’s record on LGBTQ rights. During his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, Buttigieg criticized Pence for not explicitly denouncing conversion therapy. On the campaign trail, Buttigieg also often cited his ability to win reelection as mayor of South Bend “as a gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana” as evidence of his political appeal.
The nonprofit group Human Rights Campaign once rated Pence “the worst vice president for LGBTQ people in modern history,” noting his long record of voting against LGBTQ equality as a member of Congress and then for supporting Trump administration policies that undermined LGBTQ rights.
Ben Terris contributed to this report.
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