Pete Buttigieg is being dragged on social media for speaking to a Tea Party group when he was running for Indiana treasurer in 2010, with some saying it should disqualify him from the Democratic presidential nomination — but his campaign staff is emphasizing he does not share the group’s views.
A clip being circulated on Twitter shows Buttigieg, who later became mayor of South Bend and then came out as gay, telling the Tea Party attendees, “There are some ... who think that the Tea Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. But there are many others who believe that the Tea Party is motivated by real concerns about the direction of our government and the responsiveness of our government to citizens — and above all, a frustration with business as usual. That is what motivated me to run.” He also notes, “We may come from often very different perspectives.”
The Tea Party movement emerged in 2009, shortly after Barack Obama’s inauguration as president. While the movement was ostensibly concerned with taxes and government efficiency, many of its adherents voiced racist and anti-Muslim sentiments toward Obama (who is not Muslim, although of course that would not be the negative characteristic that his critics made it out to be). Buttigieg has experienced problems connecting with Black voters, and some see his appearance at a Tea Party event as another strike against him on that count.
Here’s the clip and an example of some of the commentary it generated.
Not everyone was negative, however.
Buttigieg’s campaign offered this comment to The Advocate: “This clip has already been widely circulated and reported on. When Pete ran for state treasurer in 2010, his opponent wouldn’t debate him, so he attended a ‘Meet The Candidates’ event because it was his only opportunity to share the stage with his opponent. As Pete makes clear in the footage, he ‘comes from a very different perspective’ and doesn’t share anything close to the view of the Tea Party, before acknowledging the frustrations many people felt about government being run as business as usual. His comments are nearly identical to what President Obama said about the Tea Party’s concerns three weeks later.”
Obama’s statement: “I think there are a lot of people who are involved in the Tea Party who have very real and sincere concerns about spending that’s out of control or generally philosophically believe that the government should be less involved in certain aspects of American life rather than more involved. And they have every right and obligation as citizens to be involved and engaged in this process.” His vice president, Joe Biden, another contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, had made sympathetic remarks earlier in 2010 about the economic anxiety he saw as driving some Tea Party activists.