There is plenty of blame to go around in the aftermath of a train derailment that exposed residents of East Palestine, Ohio, to toxic chemicals — but Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has emerged as a prominent target for criticism.
After waiting nearly three weeks to visit the community, he reacted with apparent hostility toward at least one reporter who sought to ask questions about his muted response to the environmental disaster.
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
Buttigieg has previously faced backlash over his handling of widespread flight delays and cancellations. In light of the most recent incident, one Republican lawmaker believes it is time for someone new to lead the Department of Transportation.
In a recent statement on the matter, U.S. Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) asserted that the “solution” to the nation’s transportation woes is “you get rid of Pete Buttigieg and get somebody in there that knows what they’re doing and what they’re talking about.”
He asserted that Transportation Department officials “should have shown up immediately” to the site of the derailment, suggesting that Buttigieg’s priorities are misplaced.
“That’s just another, in my opinion, another clear example of this agency and the fact that they have got their sights set on stuff other than trying to improve the infrastructure of this country,” Collins added. “And that’s the woke culture that this guy is promoting.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently offered a similar assessment of Buttigieg’s priorities.
“Even amidst a catalog of crises on his watch, from this and other recent train derailments to the meltdown in air travel back during the holiday season, Secretary Buttigieg has seemed more interested in pursuing press coverage for woke initiatives and climate nonsense than in attending to basic elements of his day job,” he said.
Nevertheless, Buttigieg remains insistent that he and his department have responded to challenges appropriately.
“What I’m really proud of is the community that I saw here,” he said of his experience in East Palestine. “You’ve got federal agencies, you’ve got local first responders, and most of all you’ve got a community that’s been through a lot.”
Buttigieg also used the opportunity to take a shot at his critics, asserting that he is “pretty frustrated with people trying to take political advantage of this situation.”