Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg ripped Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Sunday for trying to “prove” his “manhood” in an “oiled up” LGBTQ+ attack ad that was published this week.
The Florida governor is facing criticism from Democrats and Republicans after the “DeSantis War Room” Twitter account posted a video on Friday calling attention to former President Donald Trump’s past statements supporting some LGBTQ+ rights. The video highlights Trump previously voicing support for allowing transgender people to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Meanwhile, the video appears to contrast Trump to DeSantis’ record of passing laws targeting LGBTQ+ rights including Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that limits the discussions of LGBTQ+ identities in public schools, a bill allowing health care providers to discriminate based on religious belief and a ban on Medicaid covering gender-affirming healthcare for both youth and adults. The video flashes between images of the governor and traditionally masculine-presenting men, some of whom were shirtless.
DeSantis War Room describes itself as DeSantis’ “rapid response Twitter operation,” though it’s unclear if the governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate approved the video himself.
Buttigieg, who made history as the first openly gay cabinet member, responded to the video during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning, calling the ad “strange.”
“I’m going to leave aside the strangeness of trying to prove your manhood by putting up a video that splices images of you in between oiled up shirtless body builders and just get to the bigger issue that is on my mind whenever I see this stuff in the policy space, which is, again, who are you trying to help? Who are you trying to make better off?” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg questioned DeSantis’ focus on culture war issues, his embrace of which helped him build a national profile leading up to the primary season. He also sought to draw a contrast between DeSantis and the Biden administration, which he said is focused on “how to get things done to try to make people better off.”
“I just don’t understand the mentality of somebody who gets up in the morning thinking that he’s going to prove his worth by competing over who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community that is already so vulnerable in America,” Buttigieg said.
His response to the video spread across social media on Sunday morning, with a tweet showing his statement being viewed more than 1 million times.
Newsweek reached out to DeSantis for comment via his campaign’s press inquiry form.
Buttigieg joins the growing number of LGBTQ+ politicians, including many Republicans, who have condemned DeSantis’ campaign videos.
The Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay Republicans, criticized the video as “homophobic” in a statement posted to Twitter on Friday.
“Today’s message from the DeSantis campaign War Room is divisive and desperate. Republicans and other commonsense conservatives know Ron DeSantis has alienated swing-state and younger voters,” the organization wrote. “Conservatives understand that we need to protect our kids, preserve women’s sports, safeguard women’s spaces and strengthen parental rights, but Ron DeSantis’ extreme rhetoric goes has just ventured into homophobic territory.”
Representative George Santos of New York, who is the only openly gay Republican in Congress, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that “the manly chad alpha male images are some of the gayest c*** I’ve ever seen.”