Far-left Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was grilled by ABC News during and after the network’s primary debate on Friday for appearing to lie about his record as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Specifically, Buttigieg was grilled for falsely claiming that the overall rate of black arrests and marijuana arrests were lower while he was mayor, when in fact, under his leadership, a black person was four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than a white person.
Buttigieg initially dodged the question and talked around it before ABC News pressed him hard on the issue:
ABC NEWS: Right, want to go back to the original question though. How do you explain the increase in black arrests in South Bend under your leadership for marijuana possession?
BUTTIGIEG: And again, the overall rate was lower–
ABC NEWS: No, there was an increase. The year before you were in office it was lower. Once you [came] in office in 2012, that number went up. In 2018, the last number year that we have a record for, that number was still up.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie blasted Buttigieg for lying after the debate, saying, “I think the moment that could be a foreshadowing for the future is when Mayor Pete was up there outright lying about his record on African American arrests on marijuana, and Lindsay Davis of ABC challenged him more than any candidate on that stage challenged him tonight.”
“And you saw the look on his face. He looked like a deer in the headlights, and let me tell you, he thinks Lindsay Davis is hard? If he ever gets on the same stage with Donald Trump, it’s gonna be a whole different story, who will call him on those things,” Christie continued. “And I think these other candidates better get serious about calling Mayor Pete on the record in South Bend, and so I think it was a missed opportunity for the other candidates. Elizabeth Warren [gave] him a little bit of a shot on that, but not nearly enough time spent on it.”
Christie concluded, “But what I saw more than anything else is, as someone who’s been a candidate on that stage, that look in his eyes when she came back at him and didn’t take his first line of boloney was very telling about what kind of candidate he may be able to be.”
Transcript of the exchange during the debate:
ABC NEWS: I want to turn now to criminal justice. Mayor Buttigieg, under your leadership as mayor a black resident in South Bend, Indiana, was four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white resident. Now, that racial disparity is higher than the rest of the state, in fact it’s higher than the rest of the nation, and that disparity increased in South Bend after you took office. When talking about the problem on national terms you’ve called it ‘evidence of systemic racism.’ But you were mayor for eight years, so weren’t you in effect the head of the system? And how do you explain that increase in black arrests under your leadership?
BUTTIGIEG: Well the reality is on my watch drug arrests in South Bend were lower than the national average and specifically to marijuana, lower than in Indiana, but there is no question that systemic racism has penetrated to every level of our system and my city was not immune. I took a lot of heat for discussing systemic racism with my own police department, but we’ve got to confront the fact that there is no escaping how this is part of all of our policies. Earlier we were talking about opioids and thankfully America has come to a better understanding about the fact that opioid addiction is best understood as a medical problem, but there were a lot of people, including a lot of African American activists in my community who have made the very good point: it’s great that everybody’s so enlightened about drug policy now when it comes to opioids, but where were you when it came to marijuana? Where were you when it came to the crack epidemic in the 1990s? That is one of the reasons why I am calling for us as a country to take up those reforms that end incarceration as a response to possession and make sure that we legalize marijuana and when we do it, do it retro actively with expungements to correct the harm done in so many cases of incarceration disproportionately of black and brown Americans, where the incarceration did far more harm.
ABC NEWS: Right, let me go back to the original question though. How do you explain the increase in black arrests in South Bend under your leadership for marijuana possession?
BUTTIGIEG: And again, the overall rate was lower–
ABC NEWS: No, there was an increase, the year before you were in office it was lower. Once you became in office in 2012 that number went up. In 2018, the last number year that we have a record for that number was still up.
BUTTIGIEG: Yep and one of the strategies that our community adopted was to target when there were cases where there was gun violence and gang violence, which was slaughtering so many in our community, burying teenagers, disproportionately black teenagers, we adopted a strategy that said that drug enforcement would be targeted in cases where there was a connection to the most violent group or gang connected to a murder. These things are all connected, but that’s the point, so are all of the things that need to change in order for us to prevent violence and remove the effects of systemic racism not just from criminal justice but from our economy from health from housing and from our democracy itself.