Over the weekend Mike Pence spoke at the Gridiron Club Dinner, where politicians poke fun at each other and the press. The topics may be serious, but this is one occasion where they are treated with humor and irony.
Pence used that opportunity to criticize Donald Trump and explicitly accuse him of being responsible for the January 6 insurgence. So far there was very little humor in his monologue. The former VP, who is certainly not known for his sense of humor, then went on to make a joke at Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s expense. The White House found it so troubling and repugnant that they asked Pence to apologize.
“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.”
Pence had mocked Buttigieg for taking parental leave after the birth of his adopted twins while, he said, Americans faced issues with air travel.
“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. Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression,” Pence said, according to reporters present.
Politico notes that “The joke possibly violated the Gridiron rule of “singe, but don’t burn”– too heavy-handed for light humor.
It is worth noting that Buttigieg’s twins were born prematurely, developed Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) and one was hospitalized and put on a ventilator.
Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, did not take that lying down, he called Pence out in a tweet: “An honest question for you, @Mike_Pence, after your attempted joke this weekend. 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?” he said.
Pence, usually known as a non-combative person, seems to be on a tear—perhaps because Trump and Buttigieg are rumored to be fellow aspirants to the GOP nomination, perhaps because there’s a pre-existing feud between him and Buttigieg, both competitive midwestern politicians.
Their relationship has been documented in at least four political memoirs so far — Buttigieg’s 2019 book Shortest Way Home, Chasten’s 2020 memoir I Have Something to Tell You, Smith’s Any Given Tuesday and Pence’s So Help Me God.
This time Pence is catching a lot of flak. On Sunday, LIS SMITH, Buttigieg’s former communications adviser, called Pence “an unambiguous asshole.” A day later, she told West Wing Playbook that Pence’s comments were “gross and hardly in line with the upright, Christian image he tries to project”.
Pence’s camp rebutted. Senior adviser Marc Short, for his part, accused the White House of “faux outrage.”
“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 said in a statement.
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