WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg hit back at Republican critics on Friday, who blamed her for taking time off with her husband and two newborns, saying she was “blessed” to have the kind of family the Biden administration has received from the national capital. Seeking to set standards.
“Right now we have an administration that’s really pro-family, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to experience that as an employee, we have the flexibility to take care of our newborns, which, by the way, Work,” Buttigieg said in an interview with MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace. “It’s joyous work. It’s wonderful work, but it definitely takes work.”
The Department of Transportation never announced that Buttigieg would be taking leave starting in mid-August. But Buttigieg himself appeared to confirm in a retweet last week that he was on leave and returned to work.
He said in Friday’s interview that, despite being on leave, he is “available 24/7 on issues that can’t wait,” among them supply chain problems that were the focus of Republican criticism.
It was an item in the Politico newsletter on Thursday that described Buttigieg as “MIA,” triggering the criticisms from the right. Giving a monologue about supply chain issues, Fox News host Tucker Carlson mocked Buttigieg for going on paternity leave.
“Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it, is about trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how this happened,” Carlson said.
Carlson’s comments drew criticism, with many accusing him of homosexuality. Victory Fund spokesman Elliot Emsey, who advocates for LGBTQ people in public service, said the breastfeeding line was an attack on Buttigieg “for being a gay father.”
“If he wanted to make an argument about taking paternity leave, he could do so without being thrown into a homophobic trope,” Emsey said.
The United States is a global outside country with no need for paid leave for new parents. Democrats are proposing a 12-week guarantee in the budget package and in Buttigieg’s defense are emphasizing the need of the hour for workers becoming parents. White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that she is a role model “on the importance of paid leave for new parents.”
Confirmed by the Senate during the first weeks of the Biden administration, before being sworn in as the first openly gay cabinet member, Buttigieg has been a key member of the administration, regularly on the White House agenda on cable news and social media. promote. But her spate of public comments slowed when she announced that she and Cheston Buttigieg had become parents.
The day after the couple’s announcement, it was Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg who led a trip to Seattle about the investment that would flow from the infrastructure bill. Trotenberg’s comments have also been more prominent in the department’s announcements in recent weeks.
In early September, news site Insider reported that a Department of Transportation spokesman said Buttigieg was “taking some time off to be with his young family.”
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation told The Washington Post on Friday that Buttigieg was largely offline for the first four weeks of the holiday, “except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” and then more work. started doing
The Office of Personnel Management did not respond to a request for comment on Friday, but told Politico that while cabinet secretaries do not have vacation policies like other federal employees, such time can be given by the president.
In recent days, Buttigieg has resumed much of his role, returning to television to talk about supply chain problems. He attended a meeting at the White House this week that resulted in retailers and distribution firms saying they would work more during the night to carry goods. And on Thursday, the department announced Buttigieg would travel to Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
After Buttigieg appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on October 7, he retweeted a message from paid-leave advocate Don Hucklebridge, welcoming him back to work.
“It’s been amazing,” Buttigieg said during that appearance. “It’s everything people tell you to expect and do more. I think the biggest thing that surprised me is how much happiness comes, sometimes even the hard parts. Don’t get me wrong.” Get it – it’s the most demanding thing I think I’ve ever done, that Chastain and I have ever had, but it’s just amazing.
Fox News did not comment on Carlson’s criticism of Buttigieg. The company offers new parents six weeks of paternity leave, a benefit some of its stars have praised in the past. For example, in March, “Fox & Friends” co-host Todd Pirro took six weeks of paternity leave after the birth of his daughter.
“I can’t thank Fox enough for providing all the fathers who work here with such a generous paternity leave,” Pirro wrote in an op-ed in April. “This experience has changed me deeply and in a way that I won’t fully understand until my daughter is older. But for now—the smile that comes from the crib every morning, the quick morning nap—that’s it.” Which I will cherish the most.”
Following the birth of her third child in April this year, Fox News host Jesse Waters said she supports paid paternity leave.
“Now I’m pro-paternity. I used to make fun of people for taking parenthood, I used to think it was a big trick, but now, you know, I wish I had taken six weeks,” Waters said.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas also criticized Buttigieg’s absence, tweeting that he was absent during “a transportation crisis that is hurting working-class Americans.” He later doubled down on his criticism of the secretary, telling Waters that Buttigieg “couldn’t organize a car funeral—he’s not going to organize our country’s ports, and railroads, and highways, and airports.” “
A Cotton spokeswoman did not respond to a Washington Post request on Cotton’s status on parental leave. In 2019, he criticized the District of Columbia pizza chain and Pizza on the Senate floor for not providing “paid paternity leave to its employees.” The pizza chain’s management thinks “kids are ‘bad for business’,” he said. “
Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said Buttigieg is “a new parent no different from millions of other Americans who also deserve the right to care for their loved ones during birth, illness, and old age.” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh tweeted, “Everyone should have access to paid parental leave, period.”
D-Texas Representative Colin Allred said it’s important for high-profile guys like Buttigieg to make use of their paternity leave because it helps to erase the stigma of taking it — something that many men who have paternity leave don’t use. We do. Allred, the first Congressman to take paternity leave, said he was a better legislator, parent and husband because he took time off soon after the birth of his two sons.
He said on Friday, “Paternity leave is about your family, but it is also about you whatever your role, whether working in the private sector or in the public sector, as a productive person. ” “The reality is that you have welcomed a new baby into your life and it is going to change everything in your home and you will need time to go through the transition, to adjust to that baby.”
Alled said the attacks on Buttigieg are rooted in toxic masculinity and other worldviews that suggest that men do not need to be present early in a child’s life because they did not undergo physical changes to become parents.
“Research tells us the exact opposite,” he said. “When men take leave, their partners perform better at their jobs and this leads to better gender equality in the home. And men themselves report higher satisfaction as fathers when they’ve bonded with their child in those early days. “