Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg blasted an unusual video shared by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign that criticized former President Donald Trump’s commitments to the LGBTQ+ community and implied DeSantis will take a harder line against trans rights—arguing Sunday the governor is trying to compete over “who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community.”
During an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Buttigieg—the first openly gay Cabinet secretary to get Senate confirmation—said the video called into question what policies DeSantis was focused on and who those policies were trying to help.
Buttigieg described the video, initially posted by another Twitter account, as an attempt for DeSantis to prove his “manhood” using video “that splices images of [DeSantis]
in between oiled-up, shirtless bodybuilders.”
“I just don’t understand the mentality of somebody who gets up in the morning, thinking that he’s going to prove his worth by competing over who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community, that is already so vulnerable in America,” Buttigieg said of DeSantis during the CNN interview.
On Friday, the last day of Pride Month, DeSantis’ campaign re-shared a video comparing the Florida governor’s record on LGBTQ+ issues with Trump’s, and suggesting the governor plans to position himself to the right of Trump on social issues. The 73-second video shows a tweet from Trump about celebrating Pride Month and “Trump Pride” t-shirts sold by the former president’s campaign, along with a clip of Trump saying he would respect Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity and allow her to use the women’s bathroom at Trump Tower. The video then sharply transitions to DeSantis’ record, with clips showing headlines of DeSantis signing an “anti-trans bathroom bill” and the “Protection of Children Act” while electric club music plays in the background. Headlines of DeSantis shutting down Drag events in Florida and other Pride events flash in between right-wing memes—including a picture of a shirtless man flexing his muscles—and scenes from movies including American Psycho, Troy and The Wolf of Wall Street.
A number of Republicans have criticized the video and called it homophobic. The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of LGBTQ+ Republicans, condemned the video on Twitter, calling it “divisive and desperate.” The group said, “Republicans and other commonsense conservatives know Ron Desantis has alienated swing-state and younger voters,” adding that DeSantis’ extreme rhetoric “has just ventured into homophobic territory.” Richard Grenell, Trump’s former acting Director of National Intelligence and the first openly gay person to serve in that role, called the video “undeniably homophobic.” Meanwhile, Jenner, who was featured in the video at one point, accused the DeSantis campaign of using “horribly divisive tactics,” saying that “DeSantis has hit a new low.”
What To Watch For
The DeSantis campaign’s decision to share the video calls into question how LGBTQ+ issues might come up in the Republican primary campaign, particularly among the frontrunners. DeSantis has taken aim at transgender medical care and restricted teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity, drawing stiff criticism from advocacy groups and some major Florida employers. Meanwhile, Trump has occasionally expressed support for the community, though he has also taken aim at gender-affirming medical care.
UPDATE (7/2): This story has been updated to clarify that the video was initially posted by another account and shared by DeSantis’ campaign.