Mike Pence’s homophobic joke against Pete Buttigieg sparks outrage from White House

Christopher Shanks

Chasten Buttigieg, the spouse of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, repudiated former Vice President Mike Pence for his “attempted joke” regarding the secretary taking “maternity leave” after the couple adopted infant twins.

Pence’s Homophobic Joke

Republicans have mocked Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member, for taking parental leave after the couple adopted the infants in 2021. Despite Buttigieg, like other new parents, taking the parental leave he was entitled to, Republicans targeted the transportation secretary for doing so, and critics say the attacks reflect homophobia.

Pence took a swipe at Buttigieg’s parental leave during a speech at the Gridiron Dinner, in which top political figures often exchange barbs, in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. He joked that Buttigieg took “maternity leave” and that as a result the United States experienced “postpartum depression.”

“Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets post-partum depression,” Pence said, according to the Associated Press.

The comments quickly prompted some backlash, with detractors condemning the joke as homophobic. Pence has long had a strained relationship with the LGBTQ community over his longstanding conservative positions on LGBTQ issues.

“Mike Pence drops some homophobia as he prepares for a likely White House bid,” wrote health and science journalist Benjamin Ryan on Twitter.

Chasten Buttigieg’s Response

On Monday, Chasten Buttigieg took to Twitter to also respond to Pence’s remarks. He questioned whether the former vice president would have continued working in a similar situation, noting that the Buttigiegs’ twins were born prematurely and suffered from health problems such as the respiratory virus RSV.

“An honest inquiry 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 entwining with yours as the monitors beep in the background - where would you be?” Buttigieg wrote.

The White House Responds

The White House, meanwhile, asked Pence to apologize for the quip.

“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 punch line,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”

On Fox News, Pence advisor Marc Short described Jean-Pierre’s statement as “faux outrage.”

“The White House would be wise to concentrate 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,” he said.

During Saturday’s speech, Pence also criticized his former boss, forecasting that history will hold Donald Trump responsible for the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day.”




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