Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s decision to go on paternity leave to care for his recently adopted twins drew a barrage of bigoted, homophobia-tinged attacks by right-wing pundits, including Fox News personality Tucker Carlson who told his viewers that Buttigieg and his husband took paternity leave to try and “figure out how to breastfeed.”
“No word on how that went,” Tucker mockingly added in the Thursday night Fox News segment.
Buttigieg, the first openly LGBT+ person to lead one of the 15 cabinet departments, drew attacks from the right-wing outrage machine after Politico noted that the secretary had spent recent weeks away from his Department of Transportation office, an absence the White House attributed to parental leave on account of his and husband Chasten’s 17 August announcement that they were “overjoyed” to have become parents.
In an emailed statement, LGBTQ Victory Fund Vice President Elliot Imse told The Independent that the Fox News host “peddles in hate and anger” and his comments were “pathetic”.
Carlson, he said, “whines to his audience about the degradation of family values in America and then criticizes Pete for spending time with his newborns. It is nonsensical”, adding that he hopes the comments “spark a conversation that prompts elected officials and Americans to think more critically about policies that help parents succeed – including same-sex couples”.
Buttigieg, however, used the non-controversy to highlight that the U.S. is the only industrial industrialized nation without federal paid family leave and it’s harming kids, parents, workplaces and making the entire country less competitive.
In a recent interview with The View, Buttigieg called the right-wing attacks “unfortunate” but added, “In a way, maybe some good comes out of it too because it’s helped us have a conversation about parental leave.”
“Every American ought to be able to get paid parental leave,” he said. “That’s something the President believes and has proposed. It’s something I believe. It ought to be basic.” The audience applauded his comment.
As mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg said he helped secure six weeks of fully paid parental leave for city employees.
“I’ll tell you, just as an employer, that made us much more competitive from a hiring perspective,” he said. “So it’s good for business, it’s good for families, it’s good for communities and it’s definitely good for the kids.”
Buttigieg added that offering paid parental leave is only part of the solution. The other part is changing cultural perceptions that parental leave is just a “paid vacation,” he said.
“When parents take that parental leave, they need to be supported in making that choice,” he said. “There’s this idea that you know, maybe, men have access to paternity leave, but it’s frowned on if they actually use it.”
“Obviously,” he added, “that doesn’t work for a marriage like mine. But also, for a man who’s married to a woman, that carries with it this assumption that the woman’s going to do all the work, and it just makes no sense in the 21st century.”
Buttigieg said that while on paternity leave, his workday starts around 3 a.m. when his husband, Chasten, goes to bed. That’s when he takes over the care and feeding of their newborn twins.
Transportation @SecretaryPete Buttigieg responds to criticism of his paternity leave, telling #TheView “the negativity was unfortunate” but it has “helped us have a conversation about parental leave.”
“Every American ought to be able to get paid parental leave,” he adds. pic.twitter.com/ywa9XrKyqV
— The View (@TheView) October 20, 2021