Mike Pence's 'Joke' About Pete Buttigieg's Parental Leave Is Insulting on So Many Levels

Former vice president Mike Pence appears to be spicing up his reputation as America’s most milquetoast Christian conservative with a little crass homophobia directed toward transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg. That fragile masculinity vote won’t court itself, after all. 

At the annual Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, DC on March 11, Pence delivered a line about Buttigieg taking time from work to care for his newborn children like some kind of lady, with a side of disdain for postpartum depression. “When Pete’s two children were born, he took two months maternity leave, where upon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, airplanes nearly collided in midair,” Pence said. “I mean, Pete Buttigieg is the only person in human history to have a child and all the rest of us get postpartum depression.” 

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Might I remind you, this comes from the mouth of a grown man who refers to his wife as “Mother” and who, as governor of Indiana, once signed an anti-abortion law that would have mandated funerals for aborted fetuses. More to the point, Pence has a long history of opposing any expansions to paid leave laws in the United States—maternity, paternity, paid, unpaid, or otherwise. Currently, United States law guarantees employees only 12 weeks of unpaid family leave, and we have no national paid leave policy at all. This is despite the fact that studies indicate that paid parental leave prevents infant mortality, and that the U.S. ranks 33rd out of 36 developed countries for infant mortality. 

In response to Pence’s unambiguously gross (not to mention unoriginal) joke, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement demanding an apology from the so-called pro-life champion of family values. “The former vice president’s homophobic joke about Secretary Buttigieg was offensive and inappropriate, all the more so because he treated women suffering from postpartum depression as a punchline,” Jean-Pierre said, per CNN. “He should apologize to women and LGBTQ people, who are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”

There’s a fat chance of that, according to Mike Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short, who scoffed at the Biden administration’s “faux outrage.” Apparently you don’t win Republican hearts and minds by treating women and LGBTQ people with dignity and respect.

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