Mayor Pete Buttigieg seems like he just doesn’t feel 100 percent at ease around Black folks. That’s probably for good reason considering his track record back home in South Bend, Indiana, coupled with his extra-low polling with Black voters.
But whatever the cause, those truths were on display Thursday night when he was interviewed during an event in South Carolina that was hosted by Charlamagne Tha God from the nationally syndicated radio show “The Breakfast Club.”
To say that there has been skepticism surrounding the sincerity of Buttigieg’s outreach to Black voters and whether it was only politically motivated or if there was more to it than that is an understatement. The upstart national politician has struggled to appeal to Black voters, a coveted demographic seen as necessary for winning the Democratic nomination for president. While Buttigieg is polling competitively nationally — especially in predominately white states like Iowa and New Hampshire — the polar opposite is true in South Carolina, the first state in the primary process expected to be a barometer for the national Black vote.
Keeping that in mind, Charlamagne asked Buttigieg point-blank about how genuine he was making his pitch to Black voters, Politico reported.
“How do we know you aren’t just blowing smoke up the black community’s ass in order to get our support?” the no-nonsense radio host asked Mayor Pete matter of factly.
Buttigieg responded in classic politician form.
“I didn’t get into running for office in order to comfort the comfortable, and I walked away from a pretty good paying job in order to make myself useful back home,” the mayor said. “That means making yourself useful to everybody who has reason to doubt whether government is working for them.”
That didn’t really appear to answer Charlamagne’s question, though.
During the same interview, Mayor Pete was trying to explain away the controversy surrounding his “wine cellar” fundraisers and the topic of campaign finance reform when he made what could have been a Freudian slip.
“We can deal with black money,” Buttigieg said before quickly correcting himself in front of a room filled with Black people. “Sorry dark money.”
Charlamagne quickly checked Mayor Peter, according to Washington Post reporter Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
“African-American money,” Charlamagne interjected.
Whether that was a verbal gaffe was implicitly biased or not, it still was the latest in a series of instances of misspeaking on the topic of race surrounding the mayor.
Just last week some of the mayor’s most ardent supporters shared their true thoughts about Black voters. One Iowa resident, in particular, said that Mayor Pete believes that “all lives matter,” a troublesome phrase that minimizes the purpose and work of the original Black Lives Matter movement.
In November, then-presidential candidate Kamala Harris had to call out Mayor Pete for his campaign using a stock image of a Black woman and smiling child with the caption, “comprehensive investment in the empowerment of black America.” The image and caption were used to promote his Douglass Plan for African Americans that covers voting rights, criminal justice, HBCUs and more. The only issue was that the picture used was a stock image that was photographed in Kenya, meaning it didn’t actually feature African Americans after all.
There is also the case of a damning 30-second video from 2014 where, as the mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg claims that the people who wrote the Constitution did not understand that slavery was “a bad thing.”
Mayor Pete’s persistence with courting Black voters is commendable since Democrats typically take that support for granted. But polling shows it is probably all for naught since every Democratic nominee in modern history has advanced to the general election with the strong support of Black voters, something that has proven elusive for Buttigieg.
Watch the full interview between Mayor Pete and Charlamagne below.
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