The White House on Monday accused former Vice President Mike Pence of being “homophobic” because he joked about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg taking paternity leave, prompting the ex-vice president’s team to say the Biden administration should “spare the faux outrage” and focus on America’s problems.
Mr. Pence joked about Mr. Buttigieg — who is openly gay and took parental leave in 2021 to take care of adopted twin babies — during a lighthearted portion of the annual Gridiron Dinner.
Mr. Buttigieg weathered criticism from conservative figures when he took paternity leave because he was gone during a fierce debate over transportation upgrades and the supply chain crisis.
“Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets post-partum depression,” Mr. Pence said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took exception to the remarks in a statement issued to the Washington Blade and reposted on Twitter.
“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,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.
Aides for Mr. Pence, who is promoting a book and considering a 2024 presidential run, hit back at the administration for criticizing Mr. Pence over jokes at the dinner, which also featured ribbing from Democrats such as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“The Biden administration should spare America the faux outrage. The hypocrisy is especially rich considering their own Secretary of State Antony Blinken joked that he yearned for ‘the old days’ when ‘Jews did all the work,’” said Marc Short, a longtime Pence aide. “The White House would be wise to focus less on placating the woke police and focus more on bank failures, planes nearly colliding in mid-air, train derailments, and the continued supply chain crisis.”
The Buttigieg jokes were largely overshadowed by serious comments Mr. Pence made about former President Donald Trump and his actions surrounding a pro-Trump mob attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Mr. Pence had refused Mr. Trump’s entreaties to block the certification of electoral votes and return the issue to the states.
“President Trump was wrong,” Mr. Pence said. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Mr. Pence also criticized persons who’ve tried to downplay the Jan. 6 attacks as akin to a tourist visit. The comments were viewed as a reference to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who is using archive footage from Capitol security cameras to portray the nonviolent side of the events.
“Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace,” Mr. Pence said. “And it mocks decency to portray it any other way.”