In the aftermath of widespread flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg attracted bipartisan backlash for a response that critics felt was too anemic.
Days later, he was embroiled in another emerging scandal, this time involving a trip he took with his husband to the Netherlands last year. According to reports, the couple traveled aboard a military jet to the Invictus Games, an athletic tournament for injured military service members and veterans that was founded in 2014 by Prince Harry of the United Kingdom.
Buttigieg, an Afghanistan War veteran who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve, had been slated to lead a U.S. presidential delegation at the event.
Despite the official status of the cabinet secretary’s visit, critics were upset that he brought his husband, Chasten, along with him on the military aircraft.
Specifically, the nonprofit government accountability organization Americans for Public Trust described the situation as a clear “double standard” when compared to the fact that under the Trump administration, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was pressured to resign after using military and other government aircraft for international trips with his wife.
🚨New: @SecretaryPete took military aircraft to attend a sporting event in the Netherlands with his husband.
While families’ holiday travel plans were upended by his department's failures, Buttigieg has used their tax dollars to avoid problems he createdhttps://t.co/z0tZeVMApC
— Americans for Public Trust (@apublictrust) January 4, 2023
APT’s statement on the matter cited records showing that Buttigieg had flown on private jets provided by the government “on at least 18 occasions since taking office, despite arguing for aggressive climate change policies and carbon emission reductions.”
A number of prominent Republicans also expressed indignation, particularly in light of a disastrous year for airline travel.
Abigaile Marone, a spokesperson for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), tweeted: “Your holiday flights were delayed or canceled but Pete Buttigieg brought his husband on a military aircraft to attend sports event in the Netherlands.”
Of course, the Biden administration came to his defense with a White House statement asserting that it is “standard practice for military aircraft to be provided for White House organized cabinet-level presidential delegations.”
In a separate statement, the Department of Transportation touted the mission of the Invictus Games and added that Buttigieg was “proud to be asked to be part of the Presidential Delegation that the State Department organized” ahead of April’s competition.
On a broader scale, Buttigieg has received poor marks from across the ideological spectrum based on his record thus far in the position.
Nina Turner of the left-learning Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy tweeted last week that ongoing struggles involving airlines, railways, and supply chains are the direct result “of a small city mayor being made the Secretary of Transportation as a means to pad his resume for President.”