Despite the nation being crippled under a historic supply chain crisis, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg skirted phone calls and official business during his eight-week paid paternity leave in the fall of 2021.
This avoidance of responsibility came despite his pledge to be available 24/7 during the troubled time.
Records obtained by watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust showed that the transportation secretary was indeed unavailable. He had expressed to CNN’s Jake Tapper that he was reachable around the clock due to the “nature of my job.”
That, however, proved not to be the case after Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, adopted newborn twins in September 2021.
Buttigieg avoided calls, public appearances on paternity leave, FOIA documents show https://t.co/GmIZb4nsU3
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 13, 2023
While the secretary enjoyed his leave, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) requested to meet with Buttigieg to review bridge funds. However, records shared with the Washington Examiner last week showed a staffer declined Grassley’s request for a discussion.
The unidentified staffer wrote, “Unfortunately, the Secretary is currently on leave due to the birth of his twins, and that may lead to a delay in possibly scheduling in the future.”
The records, revealed through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, showed that Buttigieg used his paternity leave status to also reject an invitation to an Illinois bridge opening and a meeting with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
The transportation secretary faced harsh criticism for taking eight weeks of leave during the crisis, which is over five times the length taken by 70% of fathers of newborns who receive time off.
Buttigieg defended his actions by saying that he was “going to have to engage” during his leave period. He said he did, “even if that meant taking a phone call or making a decision from a hospital room.”
He further thanked his colleagues and staffers for “phenomenal work” accomplished while he was away.
The timing could hardly have been worse. Along with the critical supply chain issues that lashed the U.S. economy, he missed congressional work on infrastructure that resulted in over $100 billion being allotted to the Transportation Department for public transit.
Despite his very public pledge to be on the job “24/7,” Buttigieg was notably away from his duties for two full months during a time of national crisis. This is a luxury the average American can only dream of and hardly reflects well on a man whose aspirations reach higher than the Cabinet.