(breitbart) – Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has drawn intense criticism for his delayed response to the catastrophic train derailment and subsequent controlled burn of chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, last month, marking the latest in a number of lowlights during his time in the Biden administration.
Whether it be East Palestine, his reported ties to an alleged child-porn-distributing former mayor, taking paid family leave during a nationwide supply chain crisis, or widespread cancellations throughout the airline industry dating back to last spring, Buttigieg has been scrutinized for plenty.
Buttigieg Arrives in East Palestine 20 Days After Derailment
The secretary finally visited East Palestine on February 23, which was 20 days after the initial derailment and 17 days after the “controlled” burn of vinyl chloride that devastated the town. Under mounting pressure days earlier, the secretary said he would travel to East Palestine “when the time is right.”
When a reporter asked why it took him almost three weeks to arrive in the Eastern Ohio town, Buttigieg refused to answer, as Breitbart News reported.
“Why did it take you an entire two and a half weeks to actually get here to respond to East Palestine? Will you apologize to the residents of this city for the slow response,” she asked. Buttigieg ignored her while his press secretary rushed in and told reporters she would be “happy to talk to [them] off camera.”
He spent parts of the day sporting a hard hat, safety goggles, and reflector vest while touring the town. At one point, he suggested deregulation during the Trump administration was to blame for the crisis. The leftist New York Times has debunked the claim. Citing PolitiFact, it noted the deregulation “had no impact on the East Palestine derailment.”
A day earlier, former President Donald Trump arrived with truckloads of water and purchased food for everyone in an East Palestine McDonald’s.
Nine House Republicans on Wednesday cosponsored a resolution led by Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) condemning Buttigieg’s lack of action and calling on him to step down as transportation secretary.
Reportedly Mentored Mayor Facing 56 Child Porn-Related Charged
Days after Buttigieg’s visit to East Palestine, a Maryland mayor was arrested on 56 child porn possession and distribution charges. Patrick Wojahn, a 47-year-old gay man, resigned from his position as College Park mayor after his arrest.
Buttigieg was reportedly a “mentor” of Wojahn’s, who said they even enjoyed a beer together. The pair had known each other for eight years, according to a 2019 interview Wojahn did with LGBTQ newspaper the Washington Blade when Buttigieg was a leading presidential candidate.
“I actually met Mayor Pete Buttigieg shortly after I was elected mayor in 2015,” Wojahn told the Washington Blade in a 2019 interview when Buttigieg was a presidential candidate. “I went to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Winter Meeting in D.C. in January and he was assigned to be my buddy.”
Per the outlet:
The two continued to talk over the phone and Buttigieg explained the conference to him and what would take place at the meeting. Later, they would both attend a White House reception during the Obama administration where Dave and Chasten (Buttigieg) would meet as well.
Buttigieg continued to mentor Wojahn, advising him on how to get the most out of his participation in the conference.
In 2019, Wojahn tweeted an image with the caption, “Just two mayors, grabbing a beer together.” He is seen with his arm around Buttigieg.
Although Wojahn remarked in a June 2021 Instagram post how it’s “always great to see” Pete and Chasten Buttigieg at the White House, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation (DOT) told Fox News that the mayor and transportation secretary did not know each other well.
“The Secretary did not know the former Mayor well, but did meet him a number of times through participation in U.S. Conference of Mayors programming, conferences and political events,” the spokesperson said.
Paid Family Leave During Supply-Chain Crisis
Buttigieg has also caught heat for his months-long paid family leave during a supply-chain crisis from heavily congested ports. At times in late September, 50-60 ships would be waiting off the coast of Los Angeles, rising to 100 by late October.
Buttigieg was mum on his leave for months. As questions mounted in October, it was revealed he had been on leave since the middle of August to help Chasten with their two newborn babies.
“For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” said a DOT spokesperson. “He has been ramping up activities since then.”
He will “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children,” the spokesperson added.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) blasted Buttigieg at the time.
“We’re in the middle of a transportation crisis, and Pete Buttigieg is sitting at home. Meanwhile, cargo boats are unable to dock and shelves are sitting empty,” she told Breitbart News. “Pete needs to either get back to work or leave the Department of Transportation. It’s time to put American families first.”
When asked if a “point person” was put in charge of the cargo crisis during Buttigieg’s absence, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki said a “range of officials” were dealing with the matter.
Last Spring’s Airline Industry Chaos
A constant theme throughout roughly the past year of Buttigieg’s tenure has been disruptions in the airline industry. The first weekend in April marked the start of mass cancellations and delays in the airline industry that would persist at various points throughout the year. On the weekend of April 2-3, 3,500 flights were canceled, while another 8,800 were delayed, as Breitbart News reported citing data from FlightAware, a flight tracking website.
Southwest Airlines cited “ongoing weather challenges” and a pause in service earlier in the day to “resolve an intermittent technology issue” as the causes of its widespread disruptions.
Buttigieg was quiet on the issue through the weekend. The following Friday, April 8, he appeared on ABC’s The View, where guest host LeAnne Rimes asked what he planned to do to halt the disruptions:
Just last week there were over 12,000 cancellations and delays alone, and I’m just wondering with all the unruly passengers, with the whole situation, what are you going to do that will ease all of these disruptions that we’re experiencing while traveling?
Buttigieg failed to explain actions that DOT or Federal Aviation Administration officials were taking to ease cancellations and delays but instead zoned in on passenger behavior:
Look, it’s one thing to be grumpy on a flight. I feel that way sometimes when I get canceled or delayed, but yeah it’s another thing to endanger flight crews and to endanger fellow passengers. We have no tolerance for that. The FAA is actually getting ready to announce record fines on people who have done this. Look, if you’re on an airplane, don’t be a jerk. Don’t endanger your fellow passengers.
Ironically, turbulence in operations continued that weekend as well, with another 1,100 cancellations and 9,000 delays of flights within, into, or out of the United States from Friday night into Saturday afternoon, as Breitbart News reported.
CNN reported that staffing issues and weather were blamed as factors in the industry failures.
Dysfunction Continued into the Summer
Problems arose again over Memorial Day weekend in June when United States airlines terminated more than 2,500 scheduled flights, as Breitbart News’s Katherine Hamilton reported.
“Many cancellations were blamed on weather and air traffic control, as well as employee coronavirus cases and ‘other staffing issues,’” Hamilton wrote at the time.
It appears as though Buttigieg remained silent on the disruptions, prompting Democrat Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Ed Markey (MA) to pen him a letter on June 2 asking him to “please provide information on the steps DOT is taking in response to this past weekend’s cancellation.”
Several weeks later, on June 16, Buttigieg participated in a virtual conference with airline CEOs and “pressed them on what they were doing to prevent a repeat of the cancellations,” the Washington Post’s Lori Aratani reported. While the meeting transpired, mass cancellations rocked the industry again, as the Associated Press noted.
More than 1750 flights within, entering, or departing the United States were nixed on June 16, as Breitbart News reported. Another 1,365 flights were scrapped by nighttime on June 17. Pilot shortages related to staffing were hampering the industry, according to the AP. Artani reported the widespread dysfunction was weather related.
In September, Buttigieg predicted that air travel operations would be smoother by the holidays while speaking with late-night host James Corden. His forecast did not age well.
On December 26, Southwest Airlines canceled 70 percent of its flights amid a winter storm, per Flight Aware, accounting for 76 percent of domestic cancellations and leaving thousands stranded around the country. On December 27, the airline nixed more than 2,900 scheduled departures, accompanied by another 5,000 cancellations in the following days.
Fellow Democrats and liberal-leaning figures, including Rep. Ro Khanna (CA) and former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, soured on Buttigieg after the week.
“Nearly six months ago @BernieSanders & I called for Buttigieg to implement fines & penalties on airlines for cancelling flights. Why were these recommendations not followed?” Khanna tweeted. “This mess with Southwest could have been avoided. We need bold action.”
Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also took to Twitter on Thursday to call on Buttigieg and the DOT to hold Southwest CEO Bob Jordan “accountable.”
“Southwest’s flight delays & cancellations are beyond unacceptable. This is a company that got a $7 billion taxpayer bailout & will be handing out $428 million in dividends to their wealthy shareholders,” he wrote. “@USDOT must hold Southwest’s CEO accountable for his greed and incompetence.”
Buttigieg Was Out of Town During Key Negotiations Between Freight Rail Unions and Carriers
Buttigieg was with President Joe Biden at the Detroit Auto Show while Labor Secretary Marty Walsh engaged in high-stakes negotiations between twelve rail unions and freight companies in September. The issue marked an intersection of labor and transportation as the strike threatened to bring freight rail transportation to a screeching halt.
Walsh ultimately struck a tentative agreement between the groups that the rank and file of four unions subsequently rejected as seven guaranteed paid sick days they were seeking were not included in the agreement. Congress voted to impose the tentative agreement on union workers at the request of the Biden administration to avert the strike, marking a win for corporations and a defeat for workers.