A Bloomberg campaign staffer has clarified remarks in a recent GEN article seen as echoing a pastor’s anti-gay remarks on Buttigieg, expressing regret over the comments.
“Someone made an inappropriate joke, I tried to diffuse it at the time,” North Carolina State Director James Mitchell said via email to the Washington Blade. “I wish I had been stronger in my response.”
The article on Bloomberg’s presidential campaign describes a conversation Mitchell was having with black pastors in North Carolina — seen as a possible win for Bloomberg — over the Democratic presidential primary.
When Mitchell was reportedly ticking off various presidential candidates to solicit the views of the candidates, he noted, “You have Biden, Sanders, Warren, Butti-Jay.”
According to GEN, Mitchell then gestured to Dwayne Walker, pastor at Little Rock AME Zion Church and said, “Pastor, you got me saying what you were saying — Butti-Jay,” to laughter in the room. Mitchell added, “He said something different — I’m cleaning it up.”
Walker reportedly confirmed to GEN he had issues with Buttigieg’s sexual orientation.
“I don’t think I’m comfortable with the husband,” Walker was quoted as saying. “I don’t think I’m comfortable with that. It’s going to take me a minute to wrap my head around that.”
Walker reportedly added he believed “people are free in terms of who they love. I have evolved to that degree.”
Buttigieg continues to struggle with the black electorate as he heads into primary contests in South Carolina and Super Tuesday, states with higher population black than Iowa and New Hampshire, where he had success early in the primary.
UPDATE: The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Buttigieg and called on Bloomberg to apologize for the staffer’s comments, said the clarification was insufficient.
“His team let the homophobic remark stand – and repeated it – because they made a calculation and determined it better to win votes than stand against prejudice,” said Victory Fund spokesperson Elliot Imse. “They believed reminding people in the room that Pete is gay would work to their advantage. It’s that simple.”