Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg masterfully shut down an attack on his criticism of Vice President Mike Pence at a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire Monday night.
Anderson Cooper asked Buttigieg to respond to remarks made by Richard Grenell, the openly gay US Ambassador to Germany, who accused Buttigieg of "pushing this hate hoax along the lines of Jussie Smollett for a very long time now, several weeks."
Buttigieg's reply was perfect:
"I'm not a master fisherman, but I know bait when I see it and I'm not going to take it."
Thunderous applause ensued.
This is the kind of civility we need.
Poor Anderson, though.
Buttigieg, the 37-year-old openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana has been a vocal critic of Pence's ferocious opposition to gay rights and devout support for President Donald Trump, which he says is at odds with Pence's evangelical Christian faith.
In March, Buttigieg told Jake Tapper at a town hall in Austin, Texas that he used to think Pence “believed in our institutions and was not personally corrupt." This was back when Pence was still serving as Indiana's governor before he was tapped to be Trump's running mate.
Buttigieg's opinion changed when Pence agreed to join Trump’s presidential ticket, becoming one of Trump’s most faithful footsoldiers.
Buttigieg contrasted his own beliefs with Pence’s fundamentalist “interpretation of scripture,” the basis of Pence’s opposition to topics like gay rights and pre/extramarital sex:
“My understanding of scripture is that it is about protecting the stranger, and the prisoner, and the poor person… has a lot more to do with sexuality and a certain degree of rectitude.”
And therein lies Pence’s hypocrisy, Buttigieg said:
“How could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency. Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?”
Earlier this month, Buttigieg spoke at a Victory Fund Brunch about the challenges he has faced as a gay man in a straight world.
"If you had offered me a pill to make me straight, I would’ve swallowed it before you had time to give me a sip of water," Buttigieg, who came out at 33, said. "It’s hard to face the truth that there were times in my life when, if you had shown me exactly what it was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it out with a knife."
And then he came for Pence, beautifully.
“My marriage to [my husband] Chasten has made me a better man and yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God," he said. “You may be religious and you may not,” he continued. “But if you are, and you are also queer, and you have come through the other side of a period of wishing that you weren’t, then you know that that message—this idea that there is something wrong with you—is a message that puts you at war not only with yourself but with your Maker.”
Buttigieg pressed on:
“That’s the thing that I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand, that if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
He talks softly and carries a big stick.
Your move, Pence.