Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says it’s “slanderous” for Pete Buttigieg to call Mike Pence a homophobe.
Pompeo, who has a pretty homophobic record himself, discussed the matter Tuesday on conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and the only openly gay candidate in the Democratic presidential field, has frequently called out the vice president and former Indiana governor on his anti-LGBTQ stances.
Buttigieg had appeared on Hewitt’s show Friday. Hewitt noted that the last time he saw Pence was at the swearing-in of Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany. Grenell is the highest-ranking out gay official in the Trump administration, and his partner was present at the ceremony. “Do you really think Mike Pence is homophobic?” Hewitt asked Buttigieg.
“Well, he advances homophobic policies,” the mayor replied. “I don’t know what’s in his heart. He’s always been polite to me in person. But you look at the fact that he, to this day, cannot bring himself to say that it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against people who are gay, or that I should have been allowed to serve and put my life on the line in the military, as I was, even though he said very nice things about my service. He has not brought himself to reverse his position on firing military members who are gay. He certainly doesn’t seem to have objected to the way that troops who are transgender are being treated in this administration. And he hasn’t even gone on the record to say whether he believes that my family should be broken up or my marriage should be ended or not. So you know, if you’re in public office and you advance homophobic policies, on some level it doesn’t matter whether you do that out of political calculation or whether you do it out of sincere belief. The problem is it’s hurting other people.”
On Tuesday’s show, Hewitt mentioned this exchange to Pompeo. “I had Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend on my show Friday,” Hewitt said. “He assesses your friend and mine, Vice President Pence, as a ‘homophobe’ on the basis of his, he said, actions. He ignores the fact that the vice president swore in Grenell while the ambassador’s partner held the Bible. He said judged by your actions. And Ambassador Grenell is leading this decriminalization effort of LGBTQ [overseas]. Is the vice president fully on board with that program?”
“Oh, goodness,” Pompeo responded. “I’ve known Mike Pence, Vice President Pence, for an awfully long time now. This is a fundamentally decent man who just as I described shares the administration’s view with respect to how every human being should be treated. To say anything different from that is both false and frankly slanderous.”
Well, a review of Pence’s record: He has consistently opposed marriage equality; while a congressman from Indiana, he supported amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Also as a congressman, he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, LGBTQ-inclusive hate-crimes law, and repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As governor of Indiana, he signed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which opponents believed would enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination; it had to be amended to quell those fears. Many political observers believe that as vice president, he has been the driving force behind the Trump administration’s homophobic and transphobic policies. And his wife, Karen, has taken a position teaching at a Christian school that discriminates against LGBTQ students and staff, and Mike Pence has claimed that any criticism of this is an attack on the couple’s religion.
Pompeo compiled a long anti-LGBTQ record as a congressman from Kansas and as a state legislator before that. He has opposed marriage equality and DADT repeal, and sponsored “license to discriminate” legislation. He has been an ally of the Family Research Council, a virulently anti-LGBTQ organization, having frequently appeared on the group’s radio show. He has called being gay a perversion and stonewalled on questions about that statement during his Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of State. Surprisingly, though, he issued a supportive statement for Pride Month last year — more than Donald Trump has ever done, as Trump has failed to recognize Pride Month throughout his presidency.