Pete Buttigieg Walks Back Criticism Of Hillary Clinton, Says He Has ‘Enormous Respect’ For Her

Pete Buttigieg speaks with reporters.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is walking back his criticism of Hillary Clinton, saying he has “enormous respect” for the former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate.

This weekend, comments Buttigieg made criticizing Clinton’s 2016 run resurfaced, leading to some criticism for the South Bend, Indiana, mayor and fast-rising figure in the 2020 race. Buttigieg had made the comments in a January 14 interview with The Washington Post Magazine, implying that Clinton’s missteps played a role in her loss to Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy,” Buttigieg said, via The Hill. “At least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.”

The statement prompted criticism from others in the Democratic Party, including former Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill, who wrote on Twitter that Clinton ran a progressive and positive campaign while Trump “ran on pessimism, racism, false promises, & vitriol.”

Buttigieg was asked about his criticism of Clinton this weekend, and pointed out that he had supported her and believed America would be much better off if she had won.

“Just to make this clear, I think America would be a much better place if she were president,” he said. “That’s why I voted for her, and that’s why I campaigned for her, and I have enormous respect for Secretary Clinton.”

While the flap may have dinged Buttigieg’s campaign a bit, some political experts believe it also showed how far he has risen in a short amount of time to even warrant that level of attention. Buttigieg was virtually unknown on the national scene before entering the crowded Democratic race, only garnering some press when he was called to active duty to serve in Afghanistan while still serving as the Indiana city’s mayor. As a member of the Navy Reserves, Buttigieg is the only candidate in the Democratic primary with significant military experience.

After lingering near the bottom of 2020 Democratic primary polls for much of the past few months, Pete Buttigieg has made some significant gains as he builds his name recognition. A recent survey from Quinnipiac University showed that Buttigieg had climbed from polling at either zero or 1 percent to reach 4 percent, a jump that put him solidly in the tightly packed group of potential candidates. Buttigieg has now reached or surpassed many more well-established politicians, including Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren.