Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg explicitly called out Fox News star Tucker Carlson on Sunday morning, saying he wasn’t “going to apologize” to the conservative host for taking paternity leave to care for his newborn twins.
During his Thursday night broadcast, Carlson mockingly took aim at the Biden administration official for taking time off to care for the two babies that he and his husband Chasten recently adopted.
“Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went,” Carlson sneered.
Carlson’s comments sparked immediate backlash, with critics accusing him of homophobia. Furthermore, many noted that Carlson’s criticism of paternity leave stands in stark contrast to Fox News’ own policy, which offers new parents six weeks of paid leave.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Buttigieg was asked by anchor Jake Tapper to respond to Carlson’s attack on the idea of paternity leave.
“As you might imagine, we are bottle feeding and doing it at all hours of the day and night,” he said. “I’m not going to apologize to Tucker Carlson or anyone else for taking care of our premature newborn twins.”
Buttigieg went on to say that “the work we are doing is joyful, fulfilling, important work,” echoing the sentiment he had previously shared with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace last week when he first spoke out about Carlson's attack. He also used his own experience to advocate for the Biden administration’s efforts to make paid leave a national policy.
“It’s past time to make it possible for every American—mother and father—to take care of their children when a new child arrives in the family,” he said.
Tapper, meanwhile, pressed Buttigieg on some of the other criticism he has received over his recent time off—namely that the administration didn’t officially announce he would be on leave as the United States faced a supply chain crisis.
“Looking back, why didn’t you or the Department of Transportation make an official announcement when you went on parental leave?” Tapper asked. “Why did you not appoint an acting secretary while you were away?”
“The way this works is there’s a deputy secretary, Polly Trottenburg, who is doing phenomenal work and can fill in when a secretary is not available,” Buttigieg replied. “Even though I’m on paternity leave, given the nature of my job, when you take a job like mine, you understand and accept that you will have to be available 24/7 depending on what’s going on.”
Noting that he was still engaged in handling his job’s responsibilities “even if that meant taking a phone call or making a decision from a hospital room,” Buttigieg concluded by praising the administration for “walking the walk on family values.”