Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday made clear that he is not amused by Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s dig at him for going on paternity leave after the birth of his adopted twins.
Last week, Carlson mocked Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member, by saying: “Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed.”
After recently welcoming twins into his family with his husband Chasten, Buttigieg has been on a six-week paternity leave.
Asked to respond to Carlson’s mockery during an interview on CNN, Buttigieg refused to apologize to the Fox News host for taking care of his newborn children.
“As you might imagine, we’re bottle-feeding, and doing it at all hours of the day and night. And I’m not going to apologize to Tucker Carlson or anyone else for taking care of my premature newborn infant twins,” Buttigieg said. “The work that we are doing is joyful, fulfilling, wonderful work. It’s important work. And it’s work that every American ought to be able to do when they welcome a new child into their family.”
Buttigieg noted that both he and President Biden campaigned on paid family leave last year, and that the reconciliation bill includes provisions for it.
Buttigieg also pointed out that the U.S. doesn’t have a national policy for paid leave to this day. (The Biden administration is currently working on passing legislation through Congress that would make 12 weeks of paid family and sick leave available to most workers.)
“We’re pretty much the only country left that doesn’t have some kind of national policy for paid leave,” Buttigieg said. “I think it’s down to us and Papua New Guinea. It is long past time to make it possible for every American mother and father to take care of their children when a new child arrives in the family.”
Pressed on why he didn’t make an official announcement upon going on parental leave nor appoint an acting secretary, Buttigieg said that his deputy secretary, Polly Trottenberg,” has been doing “phenomenal work” filling in for him. Buttigieg also stressed that he still has a hand in decisions despite being on leave.
“Now, look, even though I have been on maternity leave, and I’m proud of it, obviously, given the nature of my job, when you take a job like mine, you understand and accept that you’re going to have to be available 24/7, depending on what’s going on, and you’re going to have to engage,” Buttigieg said. “And I did, even if that meant taking a phone call or making a decision from a hospital room. But I am so thankful for the phenomenal work that my colleagues at the Department of Transportation have done and are doing. And I’m thankful to be part of an administration that is walking the walk on our family values.”
This isn’t the first time Buttigieg hit back against attacks by conservatives over his paternity leave. Buttigieg told MSNBC on Friday that the notion that his leave indicates that he isn’t taking the country’s massive global supply chain problems seriously is false.
“I have been fortunate and privileged to be able to have this leave, but I have still been available 24/7 on issues that can’t wait, issues that can’t be delegated and major decisions,” Buttigieg told MSNBC on Friday. “And one of those issues that I have been involved with throughout is, of course, that of supply chains.”
Watch Buttigieg’s remarks below: