White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday called for former Vice President Mike Pence to apologize for the jokes he made about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s paternity leave and using postpartum depression as a “punchline.”
Pence said that Buttigieg took “maternity” leave and everyone else got “postpartum depression” in his absence during the annual Gridiron dinner for journalists on Saturday in Washington.
Jean-Pierre slammed the former vice president for the remarks that she said were homophobic and inappropriate.
“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,” she said. “He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Pence said in his joke that while Buttigieg was out on leave “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,” he said.
Buttigieg announced in September 2021 that he and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, welcomed twins into their family. The twins were hospitalized in October after a respiratory virus infection.
Doctors said the children were in critical condition at one point, and Buttigieg said, while reflecting on the experience a year later, that the hospital turned into a “new home base” for he and Chasten.
At the same time, the U.S. was facing a national crisis as supply chains were disrupted and President Biden was also pushing to get his bipartisan infrastructure law passed in Congress, both issues areas that were part of Buttigieg’s portfolio as Transportation secretary.
While Buttigieg said he worked every day from the hospital, some conservatives criticized him for not working harder while his infants were hospitalized, comments that drew criticism from some as homophobic.
Jean-Pierre on Friday, just a day before Pence’s remarks at the Gridiron dinner, had condemned what she called “shameful, hateful and dangerous” attacks on the LGBTQ community, pointing to a speech given at the Conservative Political Action Conference by Michael Knowles in which he said, “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life.”
She highlighted that Republicans in Iowa and Tennessee have called for legislation attacking gay marriage, while in Florida GOP lawmakers have introduced a slew of bills to roll back the rights of LGBTQ communities.