Former Republican Vice President Mike Pence was criticized after he made a homophobic, misogynistic and sexist joke at the annual white-tie Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington, D.C. about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Pence's joke referred to Buttigieg's decision to take paternity leave after the premature birth of his and husband Chasten Buttigieg's fraternal twins.
Paternity leave is a period of absence from work granted to a father after or shortly before the birth of his child that "can promote parent-child bonding, improve outcomes for children, and even increase gender equity at home and at the workplace," according to the Department of Labor (DOL).
But conservatives have repeatedly harped on the Transportation Secretary for taking paternity leave in 2021. Fox News once went so far as to print internal Department of Transportation (DOT) emails, implying Pete Buttigieg was up to no good at a time when it was publicly known he was caring for his newborn children.
Pence was greeted with laughter after he "joked" about Buttigieg taking "maternity leave."
“When Pete’s two children were born, 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."
But the joke quickly caught the attention of the Transportation Secretary's husband, educator, author and activist Chasten Buttigieg.
Chasten Buttigieg posted a picture of his husband sitting in the maternity ward with the following caption:
"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?"
You can see Chasten Buttigieg's post below.
Others quickly joined in with their own criticisms of the Vice President.
The White House weighed in as well, calling on Pence to apologize for the attempted joke.
Biden Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said:
“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. He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Buttigieg's high profile as a gay man in one of the government's top positions has forced him to respond to attacks against him, his sexuality, his relationship with his husband, and the fact they have children.
The pushback against his decision to take paternity leave has long served as the basis for homophobic and sexist smears, particularly from Colorado Republican Representative Lauren Boebert who accused him of using the birth of his children as an excuse not to address the COVID-19-related supply chain crisis.
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