Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has attracted significant backlash since accepting the cabinet position in the Biden administration, most recently for his extensive use of government-funded and military aircraft for international travel.
To his credit, he agreed to appear on Fox News where he fielded a few pointed questions from “Special Report” anchor Bret Baier. The defense he offered for his actions, however, left something to be desired from many of his critics.
Baier noted that Buttigieg has “been a big advocate for the environment” before asking: “Is it environmentally responsible to fly on private government jets when commercial options are available?”
The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, responded by asserting that “we weigh a lot of things” before determining the best form of transportation for certain official trips, including environmental impact and cost.
“No, I fly the majority of the time in economy class on an airliner, just like everybody else,” Buttigieg claimed but noted that a government-funded jet is sometimes the more cost-effective option.
Baier went on to cite a specific case that drew criticism and allegations of hypocrisy. Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, traveled on a military aircraft to attend the Invictus Gains in the Netherlands even after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced out of office for apparently similar travel arrangements during the Trump administration.
“I led the American delegation,” Buttigieg replied in his own defense. “It was one of the great honors of my time in this job. And the diplomatic protocol on a presidential delegation is that the principal is often accompanied by their spouse. It was a great trip; it was incredible.”
In addition to merely attending the sporting event, he noted that he was also able “to engage with the Ukrainian competitors, also wounded servicemembers” and “took the opportunity to sit with the prime minister of the Netherlands to look at port infrastructure.”
Baier also dug into a couple of other concerns about his guest’s tenure as Transportation secretary, which Buttigieg dismissed as “nonsense.”
BRET BAIER: You kept a low profile during the Southwest debacle… You were in Portugal during the rail strike crisis. You were on paternity leave during the 2021 supply chain crisis… How do you address that criticism?
PETE BUTTIGIEG: It's nonsense pic.twitter.com/ge8mK4MPVY
— Ethan Harsell (@ethan_harsell) January 6, 2023
Even fellow Democrats called Buttigieg out for his weak response to widespread flight cancellations by Southwest Airlines last month.
In a letter to the secretary, Democratic lawmakers set to serve on the House Transportation Committee when the chamber elects a speaker who can administer the oath of office asserted that “much more needs to be done” to address a situation that left passengers stranded during the holiday travel season.
“Refunds and other types of compensation policies quickly become meaningless if there’s not a clear mechanism or platform for passenger redress,” the legislators wrote.