Boat Shoes Meets Blackface: Buttigieg 'Honored' to Appear with Virginia Governor He Urged to Resign

March 30, 2021

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said he was "honored" to appear with Gov. Ralph Northam (D., Va.) on Tuesday, less than two years after urging the governor to resign for appearing in a racist yearbook photo.

Buttigieg and Northam held a press conference at an Amtrak station in Alexandria, Va., to announce a $3.7 billion initiative to improve rail service and enhance the commutes of the wealthy lobbyists who reside in the area.

Buttigieg, who himself was dogged by accusations of racism during his tenure as mayor of South Bend, Ind., repeatedly called on Northam to resign when the yearbook photo surfaced in 2019. Northam has admitted to appearing in the racist photo but has declined to specify whether he is the individual wearing blackface or the individual wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe.

Buttigieg, then a candidate for president in the Democratic primary, said the racist photo was "terrible" and argued that Northam had "lost [the] confidence" of Virginians and "needs to step aside." He also suggested at the time that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D.) "can no longer serve either" after Fairfax was credibly accused of rape and sexual assault. Fairfax did not resign in 2019, like Northam, and recently announced his candidacy for governor in 2021.

Despite calling for Northam's resignation, Buttigieg attended a fundraiser hosted by the governor's deputy counsel. Nevertheless, the former mayor continued to poll at or around zero percent among black voters throughout his failed campaign. Buttigieg is sometimes referred to as "Boat Shoes" given his popularity among residents of the wealthy and excruciatingly white coastal enclaves of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod.

Throughout the Democratic primary, Buttigieg was pilloried by critics as "Mayo Pete" for his extreme nerdy whiteness. His efforts to reach black voters often flopped. For example, his campaign used a photo of a Kenyan woman to announce the launch of his so-called Douglass Plan, which was billed as a "comprehensive investment in the empowerment of black America," not Kenya.

Buttigieg's record as mayor of South Bend was frequently criticized by black residents, many of whom demanded that he resign during the presidential campaign. On Buttigieg's watch, the South Bend city government did not award a single contract to a black-owned business for three consecutive years.

Since joining the Biden administration as transportation secretary, Buttigieg has faced a number of controversies. His obsession with bicycles, for example, has alarmed the millions of Americans who consider their widespread use an assault on the Constitution. He was denounced as a hypocrite after taking a convoy of SUVs to retrieve a used bike from a Pizza Hut parking lot.

Most recently, Buttigieg suggested the Biden administration was considering higher taxes on gasoline, or even taxing drivers based on mileage, only to flip-flop days later.