U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has come under fire for the slow federal response to the dangerous train derailment and chemical spill in the small town of East Palestine, Ohio. Buttigieg, who has yet to visit the site of the Feb. 3 derailment, was seemingly annoyed when a reporter questioned how he justified taking personal time when “the folks in Ohio, East Palestine … are suffering right now.”
The pointed question was posed by Jennie Taer, who identified herself as a reporter for the Daily Caller.
Taer approached Buttigieg as he walked down a street with his husband Chasten: “What do you have to say to the folks in Ohio, East Palestine, who are suffering right now?” Taer asked.
Buttigieg declined to respond directly: “I’d refer you to about a dozen interviews I’ve given today, and if you’d like to arrange a conversation, make sure to reach out to our press office.”
The reporter pressed for a statement she could share with the residents of Ohio. Taer pushed: “Do you have a message for them?”
Buttigieg declined, saying, “No. I’m going to refer you to the comments I made to the press because right now I’m taking some personal time, and I’m walking down the street.”
Taer then asked if Buttigieg would be traveling to the crash site in Ohio.
The transportation secretary replied curtly, “Yes.”
When asked when, Buttigieg said, “I’ll share that when I’m ready.”
Oddly, Buttigieg then asked Taer if he could take a photo of her. Taer appeared to view the ask as an attempt to intimidate. She posted: “I guess he didn’t like that, so he took a pic of me. Im [sic] just doing my job, sir.”
The New York Post noted, “the bizarre exchange made many conservatives bristle.”
A few captured comments follow:
Joe Concha tweeted: “This is how elitists who are made uncomfortable act out. Amazing how few members of the press are commenting on this.”
Fox News host Harris Faulkner tweeted: “Why did the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg need a picture of a member of our FREE press? Is he trying to be funny … or is something else at play here? Targeting? Journalists are allowed to speak with public officials who are in public.”
CNN producer Steve Krakauer tweeted: “This is totally weird and shows the current administration’s disdain for journalists. Imagine if Elaine Chao did this during the Trump administration. Let’s see if the corporate press colleagues speak out on behalf of a reporter doing her job.”
Steve Guest, a communications adviser for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said: “Where in his tenure at McKinsey & Company or as a small town mayor did Pete Buttigieg learn to think that this was a good idea when asked a question by a reporter?”
In a Tuesday interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Buttigieg said he would go to Ohio “when the time is right.”
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