Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg deftly shut down accusations raised by Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Thursday about bringing his husband on an international presidential delegation, asking why it should be “any different” from trips taken by other government officials with their spouses.
Appearing as a guest on Baier’s show, Buttigieg was questioned about his travel arrangements and use of government jets, including an incident from last April that has been criticized by conservative media outlets in which Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, accompanied him to the Invictus Games, “a multi-national sporting event for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women” founded in 2014 by Britain’s Prince Harry.
“You also brought your husband, Chasten, on a military aircraft to attend a sporting event in Netherlands,” Baier said in a video clip of the exchange that is racking up millions of views on Twitter.
When asked if that travel was reimbursed, Buttigieg, a veteran and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, said, “Of course not.”
“I led a presidential delegation to support American wounded warriors and injured service members — the Invictus Games — as has been tradition for many years,” Buttigieg said. “I led the American delegation as one of the great honors of my time in this job, and the diplomatic protocol on a presidential delegation is that the principal is often accompanied by their spouse.”
“But here’s what I want you to understand,” he continued. “Before me, it was the Secretary of the Army under President Trump who took that trip with his wife. Before that, it was Mrs. Trump as first lady who went to the Invictus Games. Before that, Mrs. Obama did the same thing. And I guess the question on my mind is: If no one’s raising questions about why Secretary [Mark] Esper and his wife led that delegation, as well they should have, then why is it any different when it’s me and my husband?”
Baier responded, “Understood,” before quickly switching to the next question.
Buttigieg, who was the first openly gay man to become a major contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, has frequently encountered commentary in the conservative media related to his sexual orientation.
During his presidential campaign, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said the United States was “not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband.” In November, Chasten Buttigieg defended his husband after Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed the transportation secretary had “lied” about being gay. A column full of homophobic tropes was published in the National Review shortly after the Buttigiegs became parents in 2021.