Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is under fire after a video resurfaced that shows him praising the Tea Party back in 2010. The 37-year-old South Bend, Indiana mayor made the comments during a speech to the Tea Party-affiliated group called Citizens for Common Sense during his run for Indiana state treasurer, The Washington Examiner reports.
“I have to admit, as a Democrat, that many of my friends and supporters looked at me as if I was absolutely nuts when I suggested that I would be coming tonight to speak with a group that’s often identified with the Tea Party,” Buttigieg began his speech.
“There are some, especially in my party, who think the Tea Party’s a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. But there are many others who believe that the Tea Party’s motivated by real concerns about the direction of our government and the responses of our government to citizens.”
The remarks didn’t sit well with some. Journalist Mike Freeman said that Buttigieg is “done,” while editor Jodi Jacobson expressed amazement at Buttigieg’s decision and suggested that the Tea Party is racist. Journalist Walker Bragman highlighted that the Tea Party wave was fueled by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who are proponents of low taxes and deregulation, and suggested the pair invested in getting “race-baiting, right-wing fringe candidates” elected.
But Sean Savett, Buttigieg’s rapid response communications director, noted that 2020 front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as former President Barack Obama, made similar statements about the Tea Party at the height of the movement.
Here’s @PeteButtigieg speaking at a Tea Party event during Obama’s presidency and praising them for their concerns about the "direction" of the country. The Tea Party is the RACIST movement that rose up after Obama was elected.
This video is disqualifying.pic.twitter.com/THFHD4BRS3
— Ryan Knight ???? (@ProudResister) November 19, 2019
BuzzFeed News reports that people familiar with Buttigieg’s appearance claim he wasn’t a follower or sympathizer of the Tea Party movement but rather made the appearance to show he could speak in front of any audience and keep up with Richard Mourdock, the Republican incumbent state treasurer of Indiana. According to Jeff Harris, who managed Buttigieg’s 2010 campaign, Mourdock was reportedly “ducking and dodging” any chance he could get and Buttigieg seized on the opportunity to contrast himself with Mourdock.
Buttigieg went on the lose the 2010 treasurer’s race but landed two terms as South Bend’s mayor the following year. His current presidential run has been gaining momentum and he is currently fourth in the polls with 8.3 percent support.
Along with Buttigieg’s rise, his campaign has hit a few bumps, including the revelation that his campaign announced black support from prominent black figures that did not endorse him and the release of secret tapes that shine doubt on his job performance as mayor of South Bend.