'Misleading narratives can be put to rest': Pete Buttigieg goes on offense as Republicans attack

'Misleading narratives can be put to rest': Pete Buttigieg goes on offense as Republicans attack
Image via screengrab.

From GOP Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, to the State of Florida’s CFO, to Republicans in Congress, the far right has put a target on Pete Buttigieg‘s back.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA), who attended an event in December that included U.S. Rep. George Santos and white nationalists, on Monday called for Secretary Buttigieg to resign. On Tuesday he suggested the House should impeach him.


Collins said Buttigieg was "hired to check a diversity box," and claims his "focus on wokeness prevents him from assessing the root cause of transportation incidents." In Collins' Fox News op-ed and a follow-up Fox News interview the word "woke" appears six times.

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It all seems to have begun last year in July when Buttigieg criticized U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) for calling protecting the marriages of same-sex couples with a federal law a "stupid waste of time."

"If he's got time to fight against Disney," Buttigieg said, referring to the GOP's attack on the entertainment giant after it voiced concern about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' "Don't Say Gay" bill, "I don't know why he wouldn't have time to help safeguard marriages like mine. But this is really, really important to a lot of people. It's certainly important to me."

Rubio tried to fight back via video, which was quickly panned by many on social media, often criticizing the Florida Republican's claim that protecting marriages of same-sex couples was a "fake problem."

In December, Rubio attacked Buttigieg again, this time by using his position to ask the Dept. of Transportation's Inspector General – a Trump appointee – to open an investigation into Buttigieg for using private or government planes 18 times.

In his press release touting his call to investigate Buttigieg, Rubio writes: "Flashback. In 2017, House Democrats sent a similar letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General following reports the secretary used private jets on multiple occasions."

In 2017 the President was Donald Trump and the HHS Secretary was Tom Price, who was investigated after spending more than $1 million on transportation in just four months. He ultimately was forced to resign in disgrace. Buttigieg in two years has spent $41,000 on non-commercial flights.

Sec. Buttigieg has used private aircraft 18 times in two years, and The Washington Post reports "the Transportation Department said that of 138 flights Buttigieg has taken since being sworn in early in 2021, 119 have been on commercial airlines."

His immediate predecessor, Elaine Chao, in just her first year spent $94,000 on non-commercial flights.

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"The fact remains that he flies commercially the vast majority of the time," DOT spokesperson Kerry Arndt said. "The exceptions have been when the Department's career ethics officials, who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, determined that the use of a 9-seat FAA plane would be either more cost-effective or should be approved for exceptional scheduling or security reasons."

And yet, on Monday the DOT IG opened an investigation.

On Monday Buttigieg tweeted, "Glad this will be reviewed independently so misleading narratives can be put to rest."

Sen Rubio has also called on Buttigieg to resign for not immediately heading to East Palestine, Ohio, the scene of the Norfolk Southern toxic train crash – despite previous Transportation Secretaries not going to crash sites, and despite numerous federal agency officials who did and still are on scene.

Buttigieg had no trouble responding.

CNN senior reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere notes that before he called for Buttigieg to resign, Rubio called for less train inspection by humans.

Just last week House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer published a letter launching an investigation into Transportation Buttigieg in the wake of the Norfolk Southern toxic train derailment. But Buttigieg was forced to correct Comer who wrongly claimed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was a part of the Dept. of Transportation.

"I am alarmed to learn that the Chair of the House Oversight Committee thinks that the NTSB is part of our Department," Buttigieg said. "NTSB is independent (and with good reason). Still, of course, we will fully review this and respond appropriately."

Also last week disgraced former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called for Buttigieg to be fired – framing him as the target for all GOP claims of Biden issues.

"Incompetence should not be accepted. Joe Biden should fire DOT Sec. Buttigieg and bring accountability to failures of his administration," Gingrich tweeted.

On Tuesday Buttigieg appeared on CNN to respond to U.S. Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's attack on him.

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"Secretary Buttigieg has seemed more interested in pursuing press coverage for woke initiatives and climate nonsense than in attending to basic elements of his day job," McConnell had said on the Senate floor.

Buttigieg noted that McConnell had no problem showing up in his home state of Kentucky when a major bridge was replaced under the Biden administration's infrastructure law.

"I would not call the Brent Spence Bridge a 'woke' initiative," Buttigieg retorted. "As for climate, climate is not 'nonsense.'"

Buttigieg also encouraged McConnell to "be a partner to us, right now, in making sure there are fewer rail disasters in the future."

"The freight rail industry has wielded a lot of power here in Washington. I would love to see Leader McConnell join us in standing up to them. There are specific things that could be done right now," he said.

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