(WASHINGTON) — Former Vice President Mike Pence doubled down Thursday on his controversial remarks aimed at Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s decision to take parental leave.
The former vice president, thought to be a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, refused to apologize after he mocked Buttigieg’s “maternity leave” at the annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington for journalists and politicians last Saturday.
“The Gridiron Dinner is a roast,” he told WMUR-TV’s Arielle Mitropoulos at a GOP dinner in New Hampshire when asked for his response to the criticism. “I had a lot of jokes directed to me, and I directed a lot of jokes to Republicans and Democrats. The only thing I can figure is Pete Buttigieg not only can’t do his job, but he can’t take a joke.”
On Monday, the White House publicly asked Pence to apologize, calling the joke “offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline.” Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, then went on ABC’s The View on Thursday to denounce the “attempted joke.”
Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff and co-chair of his political advocacy group, called the White House reaction to Pence’s set “faux outrage.”
“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,” Short said in a statement earlier this week.
ABC News’ Gio Benitez asked the transportation secretary himself on Monday whether he thought Pence owed him an apology, to which he responded, “I’ll let others speak to that.”
“It’s a strange thing to me because the last time I saw him, he asked me about my kids like a normal person would. I guess, you know, at a political event in white tie, it’s a little different,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg’s twins, now 18 months old, were born prematurely and developed Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV). One was hospitalized and put on a ventilator — a “terrifying” experience that the couple documented on Medium — and a point Chasten Buttigieg raised in a tweet this week to Pence.
“I spoke up because we all have an obligation to hold people accountable for when they say something wrong, especially when it’s misogynistic, especially when it’s homophobic, and I just don’t take that when it’s towards my family, and I don’t think anyone else would, especially when you bring a very small, medically-fragile child into it,” he told co-hosts of The View.
Chasten Buttigieg also said Pence’s comments were “part of a much bigger trend attacking families.”
“The thing about what he said is it flies in the face of what he says he is. He says he’s a family values Republican. So I don’t think he’s practicing what he preaches here,” he said.
“Someone wrote this, and he checked it and purposely said maternity leave rather than paternity leave — but also, it’s a bigger conversation about the work that women do in families — taking a swipe at all women and all families and expecting that women would stay home and raise children is a misogynistic view, especially from a man who said just last year that we should be supporting more people that adopt,” he added.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.