Former Vice President Mike Pence drew swift blowback after mocking Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg over the weekend.
Pence on Sunday spoke at the annual Gridiron Dinner, a white-tie event for journalists and politicians in Washington, D.C., took a shot at Buttigieg, mocking him for taking "maternity leave" after he and husband Chasten adopted twins in 2021.
"When Pete's two children were born, he took two months maternity leave, where upon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, airplanes nearly collided in midair," Pence said. "I mean, Pete Buttigieg is the only person in human history to have a child and all the rest of us get postpartum depression."
The White House slammed Pence's "homophobic joke" about the Cabinet official.
"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."
Buttigieg's twins suffered from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as premature newborns, only one month after the couple adopted them. "Penelope developed severe reflux, terrifying us when she would stop breathing and turn purple in a matter of seconds," Pete Buttigieg wrote in an essay published on Medium in August 2022. "More than once, it happened in the car, prompting Chasten to hurriedly pull over so we could unbuckle her from her seat and help get her breathing back into rhythm while standing on the side of the road." Both children had to be hospitalized at different times after they developed severe complications from RSV.
Buttigieg at the time faced on onslaught of vitriol from right-wing critics. Fox News host Tucker Carlson mocked the former South Bend mayor for going on "paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed."
Chasten Buttigieg responded to Pence's dig on Twitter Monday.
"An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend," he wrote. "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?"
"I'll leave this here for you should you want to know more about the kids you are so eager to use as a punchline," Chasten added in a subsequent tweet, linking to his husband's essay.
I'll leave this here for you should you want to know more about the kids you are so eager to use as a punchline. https://t.co/CUokmPXfgz— Chasten Buttigieg (@Chasten) March 13, 2023
Pence's former chief of staff, Marc Short, accused the White House of "faux outrage" over the incident.
"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," he tweeted.
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.— Marc Short (@marctshort) March 13, 2023