Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg finally visited the beleaguered town of East Palestine, Ohio, and his appearance was — to put it mildly — a bit underwhelming and reeked of amateurishness.
First, his press secretary did not want to be on camera as she dodged reporters, and then he made a massive verbal error during his official press conference. If he was hoping to display confidence and trust and engender goodwill amongst a town wondering where on Earth the Biden administration has been since the train derailment-turned-toxic inferno disrupted their way of life, he assuredly missed the mark.
What is likely to be a clip to be played over and over again was his moment of forgetfulness, where he had to find his words. That is normal. It happens to the best of us. But the difference is that Buttigieg is the transportation secretary on the ground responding to a railroad accident.
What he said was, “Sorry, I lost my train of thought,” before regaining his footing.
Ooops…That's a huge PR fail! This really highlights the importance of media training before going on air.
"Sorry, I lost my train of thought." pic.twitter.com/mDiPtgt8wI
— Jeremy Knauff (@jeremyknauff) February 23, 2023
It was, perhaps, the most toxic phrase you could say on the potentially toxic ground, but it wasn’t his only mistake of the day.
Upon arriving, Buttigieg was ridiculed for his outfit choice and his decision to wear dress shoes — rather than boots — to the town:
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tours the Norfolk Southern derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio pic.twitter.com/Jaz4jHXmvf
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) February 23, 2023
Some might say that’s a bit of a cheap shot and not necessarily indicative of his actual response. Optics matter, though, and in contrast to former President Donald J. Trump marching through the crowd, looking in command only the day before, it’s the worst possible look for the Biden administration.
To make matters worse, Buttigieg’s press secretary, Kerry Arndt, ran cover for her boss as he evaded reporters early in the morning. Arndt, who is paid by U.S. taxpayers to appear on camera and speak to the media, refused to answer any questions from one reporter if it was recorded.
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What sort of press secretary is scared to talk on camera? It’s like “a kite that is afraid of heights.”
Buttigieg did wind up giving a press conference — where he made that aforementioned verbal blunder about trains — but he didn’t exactly give East Palestine an empathetic impression. When asked why he waited so long to come to town, he admitted that he erred in decision-making.
So why didn’t he act differently? It just isn’t how he is programmed to operate, he explained.
“What I tried to do was balance two things: my desire to be involved and engaged and on the ground, which is how I’m generally wired to act, and my desire to follow the norm of transportation secretaries,” he explained.
"Was it a mistake not to come here sooner?"
BUTTIGIEG: "What I tried to do was balance two things: my desire to be involved and engaged and on the ground, which is how I'm generally wired to act, and my desire to follow the norm." 🤔 pic.twitter.com/KA0NPi72Oy
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) February 23, 2023
He also mispronounced the town’s name before correcting himself while trying to score political points:
Pete Buttigieg mispronounces "East Palestine" while making a veiled challenge to Donald Trump after his visit to the Ohio town yesterday. pic.twitter.com/msohMstJXw
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) February 23, 2023
If this trip occurred on February 5 instead of February 23, then maybe Buttigieg wouldn’t look so unprepared and late-to-the game.
But he didn’t take time out of his busy schedule pushing equity and other woke causes. Instead, he downplayed the incident, blamed the previous administration, and even told a reporter he was “taking personal time” and couldn’t speak about the crisis:
Pete Buttigieg is the smuggest, rudest, most condescending brat. You are not a celebrity, Pete, you work for us.
Buttigieg refuses to talk to reporter: “I’m taking some personal time right now.”pic.twitter.com/ePVCLMiu4I
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) February 22, 2023
Perhaps he should have put a bit more effort into media prep rather than going out to dinner with his husband, Chasten. Rather than help assure the American people, the trip capped off nearly a month of neglect, disregard, and annoyance from the Biden administration toward middle America.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.