Mike Pence is digging in his heels on a so-called joke about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg he delivered during a black-tie dinner in Washington, D.C. last weekend.
The former vice president came under fire after remarking on Buttigieg’s decision to take two months of “maternity leave” to look after his newborn twins shortly after he and his husband adopted them in 2021.
On Thursday, Pence spoke to reporters about the crack during an appearance at the Cheshire County Republican dinner in New Hampshire.
“The Gridiron Dinner is a roast. I had a lot of jokes directed to me, and I directed a lot of jokes to Republicans and Democrats,” he insisted, according to the Associated Press.
“The only thing I can figure is Pete Buttigieg not only can’t do his job, but he can’t take a joke.”
Pence’s original quip targeted the transportation secretary for taking leave as “thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, and airplanes nearly collided on our runways,” he said at the Saturday night event.
The punchline? “Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression.”
Condemnation from the White House followed, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre demanding Pence apologize to women and the LGBTQ+ community for his “offensive and inappropriate” comments. Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, took to Twitter on Monday to address Trump’s ex-No. 2 directly, asking him, “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?”
To his post, Chasten attached a photo of his husband in the hospital with one of their children last fall. The twins faced early health struggles after a premature birth, developing the respiratory virus RSV, leading one to be hospitalized and intubated after his condition worsened. Both children have since made a full recovery.
Chasten had more to say about Pence on Thursday. In an appearance on The View, the 33-year-old said his family hadn’t heard from the former vice president—nor did they expect to.
“No, and I think it’s not ‘woke,’ you know, to say that something is homophobic or misogynistic. Doesn’t make you woke. It doesn’t make you a snowflake to tell someone they made a mistake,” he said.
As to why he tweeted at Pence, he explained, “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.”
Chasten also accused Pence of hypocrisy, saying, “He says he’s a family values Republican. So I don’t think he’s practicing what he preaches here.”
Pete Buttigieg himself has remained decidedly more muted in his response, telling ABC News on Monday that he would “let others speak to” whether he was owed an apology.
“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,” Buttigieg continued. “I guess, you know, at a political event in white tie, it’s a little different.”
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