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Former President Barack Obama joked that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg couldn’t win the 2020 election because he is “gay” and “short,” according a new book.
The Hill has published an exclusive excerpt from Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency, the latest book from journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, who co-wrote 2017’s bestselling Shattered, about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaign.
Lucky — which received a middling review from the Washington Post — documents the campaign of President Joe Biden, whom Allen and Parnes called the “process-of-elimination candidate” after he emerged from a crowd Democratic field and ultimately won the 2020 election.
Allen and Parnes write about a private, Oct. 2019 meeting between Obama and a number of Black corporate donors, including executives from American Express, Citigroup, and Merck.
The former president, who reportedly spent most of the meeting trying to convince the donors to get behind a potential Sen. Elizabeth Warren presidency, called Buttigieg a “rising talent” and said he liked him.
However, Allen and Parnes claim that Obama then listed a number of reasons why Buttigieg would not win the presidency. (Buttigieg dropped out of the Democratic primary prior to Super Tuesday, throwing his support behind Biden.)
Allen and Parnes write that Obama was “on a roll” during the meeting, “using the tone of light ridicule he some-times pointed at himself— ‘big ears’ and ‘a funny name,’ he’d said so many times before.”
“He’s thirty- eight, but he looks thirty,” Obama allegedly said of Buttigieg, drawing laughter from the crowd. “He’s the mayor of a small town. He’s gay, and he’s short.”
Obama’s jokes came, according to the book, only months after Buttigieg had visited the former president “seeking counsel on how to maintain equanimity in the face of homophobia on the campaign trail.”
“Now, behind his back, Obama was riffing on him to some of the wealthiest Black men in America at a time when Buttigieg had been dubbed ‘Mayo Pete’ by critics who believed he couldn’t connect with African American voters,” Allen and Parnes write.
After leaving the 2020 race, Buttigieg became a key surrogate for the Biden campaign, including viral appearances on Fox News slapping down right-wing talking points.
Buttigieg was later nominated by Biden to be Secretary of Transportation, becoming the first openly gay person to be confirmed by the Senate to a presidential cabinet.
Reacting to his confirmation last month, Buttigieg said he could “feel the history swirling around us when [Vice President Kamala Harris] was swearing me in with my husband, Chasten, at my side.”
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