Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg continued going on the offensive Sunday, pushing back against those who criticized his decision to take paternity leave at a time when the country is suffering a supply-chain crisis. “As you might imagine, we’re bottle-feeding and doing it at all hours of the day and night,” Buttigieg said when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked him to respond to criticism of his decision to take paternity leave. “And I’m not going to apologize to Tucker Carlson or anyone else for taking care of my premature newborn infant twins.”
Tapper had played a clip of Fox News host Carlson mocking Buttigieg for taking paternity leave after he and his husband adopted two children. But Buttigieg said that every American should have the right to take time off work to take care of a new child in the family. “The work that we are doing is joyful, fulfilling, wonderful work. It’s important work, and it’s work that every American ought to be able to do when they welcome a new child into their family. I campaigned on that,” he said. “So did the president.” Earlier, Buttigieg had said he was being criticized “from a side of the aisle that used to claim the mantle of being pro-family.”
Tapper asked Buttigieg why his leave wasn’t officially announced and why he didn’t appoint an acting secretary to deal with emergencies while he was away. Buttigieg answered that he wasn’t completely disconnected from work during his leave. “When you take a job like mine, you understand and accept that you’re going to have to be available 24/7, depending on what’s going on, and you’re going to have to engage,” Buttigieg said. “And I did, even if that meant taking a phone call or making a decision from a hospital room.”
Buttigieg also defended his leave in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he said that paternity leave should not be seen as a vacation. “When somebody welcomes a new child into their family, and goes on leave to take care of that child that’s not a vacation, it’s work, it’s joyful, wonderful, fulfilling work, but it is work,” Buttigieg said.
Beyond defending his paternity leave, Buttigieg also warned that the supply-chain issues that the United States is facing could very well extend into 2022. “Certainly a lot of the challenges that we’ve been experiencing this year will continue into next year,” Buttigieg said on CNN. He also acknowledged there was only so much the government can do to alleviate current problems. “These are private-sector systems,” he said. “Nobody wants the federal government to own or operate the stores, the warehouses, the trucks, or the ships, or the ports. Our role is to try to make sure we’re supporting those businesses and those workers who do.”