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Mayor Pete Attacked by Rush Limbaugh Amid Debate over Whether He Is an LGBTQ Trailblazer

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Image Credit: MSNBC

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, just awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Donald Trump, has attacked former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg in recent days as a “37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage,” suggesting the Democrat would look weak next to Trump, whom he described as “Mr. Man.” Buttigieg condemned the radio host’s homophobic comments, saying he would take no lessons on family values from Limbaugh or Trump. “One thing about my marriage is it’s never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Erin Burnett this week. Buttigieg is the first openly gay candidate ever to win delegates in a presidential nominating contest, but his candidacy has been criticized by many progressive LGBTQ Democrats who say his centrist politics do not reflect the needs of the queer community.

We continue our roundtable discussion on Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Nevada. Our guests are Katrina vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher of The Nation, America’s oldest weekly magazine, and a columnist for; journalist and activist Raquel Willis, executive editor of Out magazine, who has endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren for president; Ana María Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a progressive advocacy group that has endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders; Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston, now president of the Victory Fund, which works to increase the number of openly LGBTQ officials in government and has endorsed Pete Buttigieg for president.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Annise Parker into the conversation, former mayor of Houston, Texas, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works on increasing the number of openly LGBTQ officials in government and has endorsed Mayor Pete Buttigieg for president. As Amy Klobuchar tried to defend herself for forgetting the Mexican president’s name by saying to Pete Buttigieg, “Are you suggesting that I’m dumb?” your thoughts, Annise Parker?

ANNISE PARKER: I think in the heat of the moment, a lot of things were said last night. What I appreciated about Mayor Buttigieg is that, as he has done in every one of the debates, he continued to not just attempt to speak to Democratic primary voters. He was trying to speak to the broader American electorate and to keep focused on the priority in this campaign, which is to ultimately beat Donald Trump. It’s unfortunate that we’ve reached the point in the campaign where people are throwing elbows on stage and not staying focused on: Let’s have a robust policy debate so that we can prepare ourselves for a win in November.

AMY GOODMAN: And why did you endorse, and the Victory Fund endorse, South Bend former Mayor Pete Buttigieg?

ANNISE PARKER: Mayor Pete’s candidacy, Mayor Buttigieg’s candidacy, is why we exist as an organization. We are focused on achieving more equal representation of the LGBTQ community in American political life at all levels of government. We didn’t endorse him when he first entered the campaign. In fact, I had a conversation with him and said, “You’re going to have to get out there and compete on a level playing field and show that you belong on the national stage as a candidate for president.” He did that over and over again. And last June, we endorsed him. I believe personally, and I believe as the head of my organization, that he is the best candidate for this job.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a moment that wasn’t last night but was the night before, when Pete Buttigieg was being questioned by Erin Burnett. He was in a CNN town hall, and he was being asked about the horrific homophobic comments, you know, of the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who went into a homophobic rampage against Pete Buttigieg. This was Limbaugh on his radio show.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: They’re looking at Mayor Pete, 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they’re saying, “OK, how is this going to look? Thirty-seven-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump. What’s going to happen there?” And they got to be looking at that, and they’ve got to be saying that despite all the great progress and despite all the great wokeness and despite all the great ground that’s been covered, America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this was Erin Burnett questioning Pete Buttigieg about this in a town hall the night before the debate.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values? I mean, … one thing about my marriage is it’s never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse, with him or her. So, they want to debate family values? Let’s debate family values. I’m ready.

AMY GOODMAN: Annise Parker, if you’d like to respond?

ANNISE PARKER: Well, you have Rush Limbaugh doing the same shtick Rush Limbaugh has done for a couple of decades now and Pete Buttigieg going directly to that. We know as an organization, and I know personally, that Americans will vote for capable, qualified LGBT candidates when they are the right candidate for the job and they have the good policies and they are prepared to lead. We have elected LGBTQ leaders at every level of government in America, every state, every level, every position, except president of the United States. That’s just the next step. I happen to believe that Pete Buttigieg is ready for that next step, and he’s positioned himself. And he’s not going to take the bait. That’s what’s so amazing about Pete’s ability to focus on the issues and let the attacks fall away.

Do I believe that Americans are ready for an LGBT president? Yes. Do I believe Americans are ready for a woman president? Yes. Do I believe Americans are ready to vote Donald Trump out of office? Yet, and one of the people — yes. And yet, one of the people on that stage last night has to be ready to step up and take the mantle. I am proud of all of the candidates. I am particularly proud that, as a body, as a party, Democrats have advanced so far on LGBTQ issues. But they’re not that far away from where the American population is, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Raquel Willis, you’re the executive editor of Out magazine. Your thoughts on Pete Buttigieg, and why you chose to endorse Senator Warren?

RAQUEL WILLIS: So, I think that it’s great, you know, that he is an openly gay candidate. However, I do think that it’s important for us to remember that your identity isn’t enough. And exactly what was just said, as a black trans woman, it doesn’t necessarily tell me what you stand for when you tell me that we’re in the same community. And for me, it was important to really endorse someone that I feel has been very intentional about their outreach particularly to LGBTQ organizers, black and brown organizers who are on the ground. And so, the campaigns that have done that work have really spoken to me, and I think Senator Warren has done that probably better than — actually, I would say she’s definitely done that better than the other campaigns.

The other thing I will say is that I think what also is important is, when I really look at what Mayor Buttigieg stands for, he stands for the status quo. He stands for us kind of not really rocking the boat enough. He feels that particularly someone like Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is really out there interested in tackling corruption on all levels in the government, is really gunning for a fight that isn’t necessary, and I think that that is so necessary. I think that we really have to have a conversation about how even when you are of a marginalized group, you may have many privileges. And so, the way that the world operated in 2016, before Trump was in office, may have been fine for you. I mean, you know, I think that for a lot of LGBTQ folks, particularly those who are black and brown and more marginalized, we need more. We do need a revolution. People were hurting before. We need people who are fighting for those who are incarcerated, fighting for those who are detained, fighting for those who are trying to access a healthcare system that has really ignored them for so long. And I think that someone like Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is really trying to uproot and get out of here all of that corruption, is who we need to be standing behind in this moment, because, as you will notice in particularly the mayor’s closing statement last night, he made a statement that he’s gunning for people who are interested in the status quo and aren’t interested in a revolution. That really makes no sense. You know, I think that you have to be very clear about where you stand. And for me, I think maybe he’s afraid to say that he stands for the status quo, but I know what the people that I roll with in the LGBTQ community are looking for, and they’re looking for something that is going to blow past the status quo that has forgotten us for so long.

AMY GOODMAN: Or another way Pete Buttigieg put it was “We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another who wants to buy this party out.” We have to go to break, and then we’re going to come back to the discussion. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.

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