Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg wants all Americans, regardless of gender, to embrace parental leave as the norm and to understand that while it's time away from one's employment, it's not a vacation.
The two discussed the scope of his department's responsibilities, Buttigieg's riding to work on a bicycle, his excitement for infrastructure projects, Elon Musk and Tesla electric vehicles, and other related matters.
But Buttigieg became the most animated when the topic switched to Republican criticism of his taking parental leave when he and his husband, Chasten, welcomed their twin infants into the world.
In August of 2021, Buttigieg took a two-month break from his daily office responsibilities and focused on his growing family.
At the time, Republicans, including Colorado's Rep. Lauren Boebert, criticized the new father for spending time with his family, going so far as to make a homophobic attack.
"The guy was gone. The guy was not working. Because why? He was trying to figure out how to chest feed," Boebert said during a video interview at the time.
The former Fox News anchor played a clip of Boebert making the comments and then challenged Buttigieg.
"I understand the benefits of parental leave. The question is, even for cabinet secretaries dealing with crises that affect the American families?" Wallace said.
Buttigieg first clarified that he was "always" present for anything that needed his attention, even while away on leave.
Then, the 40-year-old explained why parental leave is not only important but also why it's not akin to going on a lavish vacation.
"I'm accustomed to working very, very hard," Buttigieg said. "I have never worked as hard as I did during those weeks that Chasten and I were taking care of our newborn, premature infant twins."
He said his workday, like most parents of newborns, began at 3 a.m. and was challenging but rewarding nonetheless.
"There's this attitude that's still out there that parenting is not work; that it's some kind of vacation. I think part of my responsibility, right alongside my professional and policy responsibilities which I never set aside...is to send a message that our entire society should take parenting more seriously."
He said that all moms and dads should have access to and avail themselves of parental leave if available.
Then, Buttigieg painted a poignant picture of what it was like to be in his position with sick newborn children.
"There were times when I left the ICU bedside of my son, fighting for his life, and went into another room and shut the door behind me and opened the laptop and set a background with a couple of flags so that nobody in the Zoom was distracted by a background that was obviously a hospital room, and got on with my job.
Buttigieg had one more thing to say about those who would question his responsibilities.
"I will put my work ethic against that of any of my critics, any day," Buttigieg said.