Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pushed back on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Sunday for a video his campaign posted last week seemingly attacking former President Donald Trump for past remarks he’s made in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
The video shared on Twitter by the DeSantis War Room — the account Florida governor’s campaign uses to rile up right-wing, MAGA fans on Twitter — accuses Trump of being too sympathetic toward transgender rights while promoting the anti-LGBTQ+ laws, like the notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill, DeSantis passed in Florida during his time as governor.
The one minute and 13 second video starts off with a clip of Trump giving a speech at the 2016 Republican convention, saying, “I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.” That comes alongside a montage of photos, screenshots of headlines and tweets and two Trump clips where he seemingly shows support for the LGBTQ+ community.
About 25 seconds in, the video takes a bizarre turn. As the background music changes we start seeing a montage of photos and videos of Desantis alongside images of shirtless men with six packs and scenes from several movies with over-the-top masculine male characters, including the 2004 movie “Troy” featuring Brad Pitt as Achilles, one of the greatest warriors in all of Greek mythology.
“I’m going to leave aside the strangeness of trying to prove your manhood by putting up a video that splices images of you in between oiled-up, shirtless bodybuilders,” Buttigieg said, commenting on the DeSantis campaign video in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And just get to the bigger issue that is on my mind whenever I see this stuff in the policy space, which is, again: Who are you trying to help? Who are you trying to make better off? And what public policy problems do you get up in the morning thinking about how to solve?”
“I just don’t understand the mentality of somebody who gets up in the morning thinking that he’s going to prove his worth by competing over who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community that is already so vulnerable in America,” he added.
Since being shared on the DeSantis War Room account Friday afternoon, the video has gotten bipartisan pushback.
“This is actually very gay,” Pete Buttigieg’s spouse Chasten Glezman Buttigieg tweeted.
Meanwhile, the Log Cabin Republicans — a group that represents LGBTQ conservatives and allies — described the video as venturing “into homophobic territory,” adding that DeSantis’ “policy positions are dangerous and politically stupid.”
“Today’s message from the DeSantis campaign War Room is divisive and desperate. Republicans and other commonsense conservatives know Ron Desantis has alienated swing-state and younger voters,” they tweeted. “Conservatives understand that we need to protect our kids, preserve women’s sports, safeguard women’s spaces and strengthen parental rights, but Ron DeSantis’ extreme rhetoric goes has just ventured into homophobic territory.”
Some journalists also took to Twitter to call out the weird choice.
“Truly one of the weirdest videos I’ve ever seen a politician put out. Also, splicing images of DeSantis alongside images of shirtless and masked men… does not quite send the anti-LGBTQ message apparently intended,” New York Times reporter Jonathan Swan tweeted.
In response to some of the criticism, Christina Pushaw, the rapid response director for the DeSantis War Room Twitter account, defended the video, claiming it is not homophobic.
“We wouldn’t support a month to celebrate straight people for sexual orientation, either… It’s unnecessary, divisive, pandering,” Pushaw said in a tweet. “In a country as vast and diverse as the USA, identity politics is poison.”