Former vice president and potential 2020 hopeful Joseph Biden sparked criticism this week after calling Mike Pence a “decent guy,” but another Democrat pursuing a presidential run — one who is openly gay — made similar comments calling the vice president a “super-nice guy” two years ago.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg called Mike Pence “a super-nice guy” during an interview with the Washington Blade two years ago when he was running to become chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Asked about the experience of being openly gay in a state where Pence was governor, Buttigieg called Pence a “super-nice guy,” but also said he pursues “divisive and backward-looking policies.”
“The thing about Mike Pence is, he’s a super-nice guy, who just genuinely believes this stuff,” Buttigieg said. “He operates from a different reality than the rest of us operate from. He’s written that cigarettes don’t kill, he thinks climate change is made up. He must assume that people get up in the morning one day and decide to be gay. And so, as nice as he’ll be to you in person, when it comes to policy, like a moth to a flame, he goes in for these divisive and backward-looking policies and I think is having the same influence in the White House right now that he did as governor.”
Biden’s remarks calling Pence a “decent guy” during an event in Omaha, Neb., emerged Wednesday as a result of reporting from the Wall Street Journal’s Reid Epstein.
The comments drew criticism on Twitter from LGBT rights supporters who said Pence’s anti-LGBT record demonstrates the vice president isn’t decent. Among those condemning the comments was queer-identified “Sex and the City” star and 2018 New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.
Pence has a long anti-LGBT history that includes votes as a congressman against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and opposition to marriage equality. His record notably includes signing into law as Indiana governor a “religious freedom” bill widely seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.
More recently, Pence as vice president has defended his wife, Karen Pence, for teaching at a Christian school that refuses to admit LGBT students or employ LGBT teachers.
As a result of the criticism, Biden was forced to walk back his comments on Twitter, saying he was discussing Pence in terms of foreign policy, but “there’s nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the vice president.”
Lis Smith, a Buttigieg campaign spokesperson, said the full quote from Buttigieg is “critical to understanding his views on Pence.”
“He had a whole chapter in his book about this…and he’s addressed [it] on the campaign trail, as reporters and voters ask a fair amount about Pence,” Smith said. “I can’t speak to what other potential candidates say about the VP, but what Pete has always said is that Pence’s ‘nice’ demeanor masks a very fanatical ideology that is out of step with reality and one that is very anti-LGBTQ.”