Former Vice President Mike Pence is facing criticism from the White House after he joked about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s parental leave and about postpartum depression.
Pence delivered remarks at the annual Gridiron Club dinner Saturday night. The former vice president joked that Buttigieg's two months of “maternity leave” to adopt newborn twins in 2021 with his husband led to transportation woes nationwide last year, The Washington Post reported.
“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, according to the Post.
“Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression,” Pence added, the Post reported.
The White House issued a stern condemnation of Pence’s remarks in a statement Monday.
“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,” White House 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,” she added.
Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, rebuked Pence as well in a tweet Monday, with a photo of the transportation secretary holding one of their newborns in the hospital.
Pence has not publicly responded to criticism of his remarks at the dinner. His former chief of staff, Marc Short, dismissed the White House’s demand for an apology from the former vice president.
“The Biden administration should spare America the faux outrage,” Short tweeted Monday afternoon.
Short pointed to remarks Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly made at the dinner, saying Blinken, who is Jewish and the stepson of a Holocaust survivor, “joked that he yearned for ‘the old days’ when ‘Jews did all the work.’”
“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.
Buttigieg has been a vocal critic of Pence’s cultural and religious conservatism since his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Pence, former Indiana governor, overlapped in the state’s politics for four years. They had a cordial relationship at the time, having collaborated on economic development issues in the state.
But in his campaign memoir, Buttigieg described his relationship with Pence as “complicated” as the gay mayor began emerging as a celebrated voice for LGBTQ equality and religious tolerance on the campaign trail.
In an interview with CNBC in 2019, Pence said they had a “great working relationship” and criticized the mayor’s characterization of his religious beliefs.
“He knows better,” Pence said in 2019. “He knows me.”