Richard Grenell, it seems, isn’t a big fan of Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, who is gay, has rocketed to the top of the polls partially on his backstory: mayor of a Rust Belt city, Afghanistan vet, millennial, first LGBT candidate with a serious shot at a major party nomination, that sort of thing. The other thing he’s made hay with is criticism of Vice President Mike Pence’s record on LGBT issues.
“That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: That if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me,” Buttigieg said during a recent speech. “Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
As The Washington Post noted, this turned Pence — and by association, Buttigieg — into a trending topic on social media, with liberals pointing out other “Mike Pences” that are apparently hating on LGBT individuals.
In a separate appearance on CNN, Buttigieg also said that Pence was “someone who was against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ who felt it was too pro-gay. He wanted to make sure even closeted members couldn’t serve.”
Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, is also openly gay. And, in an appearance on Fox News, he compared Buttigieg’s remarks on Pence to a “hate hoax along the lines of Jussie Smollett.”
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell blasts Pete Buttigieg’s attacks on Vice President Mike Pence, says he is pushing a hate crime hoax like Jussie Smollett. pic.twitter.com/0PF1tMADYw
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) April 19, 2019
“It’s ironic that right about now when he’s starting his fund-raising apparatus to run for president that he comes up with this … idea and this attack,” Grenell said in his appearance on “The Story with Martha MacCullum.”
“Mike and Karen are great people, they’re godly people, they’re followers of Christ. They don’t have hate in their heart for anyone,” the ambassador said. “They know my partner, they have accepted us. You asked me do we agree philosophically on every single issue? No.”
His bluntest assessment of Buttigieg involved a comparison to everyone’s favorite “Empire” cast member: “Mayor Pete has been pushing this hate hoax along the lines of Jussie Smollett for a very long time now, several weeks,” the ambassador said.
That’s perhaps a little extreme when you consider the fact that Buttigieg didn’t allegedly orchestrate an attack upon himself and then blame it on rabid, racist Trump supporters. On the other hand, Pence’s supposed attacks upon Buttigieg for his sexuality are, in a way, fabricated: When Pence and Buttigieg worked together as the governor of Indiana and mayor of South Bend, respectively, they actually got on fairly well.
“When Mayor Pete came out, the vice president complimented him and said he holds him in high regard. The vice president or then governor has said nothing but positive things about Mayor Pete. I think this is a total hate hoax and I think it’s outrageous,” Grenell said.
Indeed, as late as 2016, Pence was saying this about Mayor Pete: “South Bend, Indiana, is so blessed to have an energetic, innovative, forward-looking, creative mayor in Pete Buttigieg.”
There was a bit of strain in the relationship over the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, an Indiana law which proponents say was aimed at protecting the freedom of religion of business proprietors, but which opponents claim could be used to refuse service to LGBT individuals.
However, as Grenell pointed out on Twitter, this tweet from Pence get much play when the RFRA is discussed:
Here’s a tweet from 2015 that is barely mentioned.
The hate hoax being perpetrated on my friend @VP Mike Pence is sadly tied to a political fundraising strategy. Mayor Pete was silent for years – I’m outraged by his phony outrage. pic.twitter.com/KA0DrknNR2
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) April 19, 2019
It’s also an interesting paradox: If Pence is a Christian bigot, why did he work with Buttigieg? Why did the mayor describe him as “affable, even gentle?”
No, this isn’t necessarily Smollett territory, considering Buttigieg didn’t allegedly commit a crime. However, Mayor Pete’s campaign has raised an awful lot of money from the LGBT community, and Pence’s Christianity makes him a convenient bogeyman in a party where traditional Christian beliefs are anathema to prevailing liberal dogma.
For his part, Pence has tried to counter Buttigieg’s criticism by bringing up their past working relationship.
“He said some things that are critical of my Christian faith and about me personally. And he knows better. He knows me,” Pence told CNBC during an interview last week. “But I get it. You know, it’s look, again, 19 people running for president on that side in a party that’s sliding off to the left. And they’re all competing with one another for how much more liberal they can be.”
According to The Hill, a new poll from a left-leaning outfit shows Buttigieg in third among Democrat presidential candidates with 17 percent of the vote, trailing only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. He’s raised $7 million in the first quarter, not a bad total for someone who was virtually unknown when the year began.
In other words, he’s succeeding among Democrats. Whether that augurs well for his chances of winning the general election if he gets that far is anyone’s guess.
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