Pete Buttigieg refused to engage when asked about a Trump administration official who accused him of pushing a “hate hoax” during a back and forth with Vice President Mike Pence.
US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell last week accused the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Democratic presidential hopeful of using the feud to further his presidential candidacy, saying it was “along the lines of Jussie Smollett.”
When asked about Grennell’s words during a CNN town hall Monday night, Buttigieg paused and parried.
“I’m not a master fisherman, but I know bait when I see it, and I’m not gonna take it,” the mayor said to applause. Buttigieg was asked about the comments by CNN’s Anderson Cooper at the event in New Hampshire.
Buttigieg and Pence have sparred in the press over the past couple of weeks.
“If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade,” Buttigieg said at an LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in Washington earlier this month. “And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me – your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
Pence, during his time as governor of Indiana, signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a controversial bill that effectively allowed businesses to discriminate against gay customers.
In a subsequent interview with CNN, Pence said, “I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith or attacks on the President as he seeks the highest office in the land,” adding, “He’d do well to reflect on the importance of respecting the freedom of religion of every American.”