On July 12, magazine, The New Republic, published an essay on presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg using gay tropes to argue against his presidency.
In the piece titled “My Mayor Pete Problem,” Dale Peck referred to Buttigieg, who is affectionately known as “Mayor Pete,” as “Mary Pete.” Peck also referred to Buttigieg as a “gay Uncle Tom.” In the essay Peck claimed that Buttigieg, a Rhodes scholar and an Afghanistan vet, would be a disaster as president, cheating on his husband, searching for the sex he hadn’t had as a closeted adolescent.
“The last thing I want in the White House is a gay man staring down 40 [Buttigieg just turned 37] who suddenly realizes he didn’t get to have all the fun his straight peers did when they were teenagers,” Peck wrote.
Peck said that the difference between Buttigieg and the other “well-educated reasonably intelligent white dudes who wanna be president is what he does with his d— (and possibly with his a–, but he’s too uptight to do it).”
TNR pulled the piece a day after publication amid backlash on social media and calls to the magazine’s offices. Editor-in-Chief Win McCormack issued an apology.
“I want to extend our sincerest apologies to Mayor Buttigieg, as well as to our readers for an article that was inappropriate and offensive,” McCormack said in the statement. “We have high standards at The New Republic, but sometimes we fall short. Yesterday we made a mistake, but we remain committed to honoring the tradition of high standards and journalistic integrity that have been the hallmark of The New Republic for more than 100 years.”
TNR editor Chris Lehmann told CNN that the op-ed was intended as satire. “The New Republic recognizes that this post crossed a line, and while it was largely intended as satire, it was inappropriate and invasive,” Lehmann told CNN’s Brian Stelter.
Peck disagreed. He shared the piece on his Facebook page with the following comment: “So I took your all’s [sic] advice and made my view on Mary Pete public. I guess I’m not going to get a cabinet position now. Or an NEA grant. Or be honored at the Carnegie Center and get to have my Aretha moment where I drop my mink on the stage. But maybe if I’m lucky I’ll still get to make a president cry. (Entre nous: The New Republic went with the nice title. My suggestion was ‘Basic Bitch.’)”
Peck has caused controversy at TNR before. In May 2011, Peck critiqued Jewish-American literature in TNR and asserted, “[I]f I have to read another book about the Holocaust, I’ll kill a Jew myself.” That piece also prompted outrage and the offensive comments were removed.
Buttigieg is the first openly gay man to run for president. He currently ranks first in the Iowa polls and in the top five in all other polls. He is 40 years younger than three of the frontrunners — Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Buttigieg has also raised more money than any other candidate in the second quarter of fundraising: $24.1 million. The mayor has pushed back repeatedly against President Trump on gay and trans issues and has argued with Vice President Pence over Christianity.
Though Peck is gay, TNR’s audience isn’t exclusively, and this language is harmful to the LGBTQ community. At what age someone comes out publicly is not relevant to Buttigieg’s presidential run.
With room to critique Buttigieg’s center-left politics, Peck instead focused on his version of Buttigieg’s sex life — reducing Buttigieg to long-established homophobic tropes.
The fallout from the TNR debacle has forced its withdrawal from a long-planned September presidential climate summit in concert with Gizmodo, after other groups and sponsors withdrew citing the TNR piece. Gizmodo said, “This incident was entirely inconsistent with our values as journalists and with the inclusive atmosphere we intend to foster at the event.”
The League of Conservation Voters tweeted, “The piece, and the choice to run it, are inconsistent with our values.” Also withdrawing were the Center for American Progress Action Fund, NRDC Action Fund and Earthjustice Action. n