Pete Buttigieg Says He's Critical Of Mike Pence's 'Bad Policies,' Not His Faith

The presidential hopeful told Ellen DeGeneres that Pence could just say he’s “changed his mind” about LGBTQ rights.

Pete Buttigieg says his recent criticisms of Mike Pence stem from the vice president’s policies rather than his religious beliefs. 

In a Friday appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful was asked about Pence, who this week accused the two-term South Bend, Indiana, mayor of attacking him simply to prove how “liberal” he is. 

“I’m not critical of his faith. I’m critical of bad policies,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t have a problem with religion. I’m religious, too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people, especially in the LGBTQ community. So many people even today feel like they don’t belong.” 

Pence, a socially conservative Christian, sparked a national backlash in 2015 when, as governor of Indiana, he signed his state’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Though Indiana’s RFRA was revised in the wake of the controversy, it still permits business owners to cite their faith as a defense when sued by a private party, meaning they can legally discriminate against LGBTQ people in some circumstances.

Having alluded to RFRA in his recent criticisms of Pence, Buttigieg said Friday that he wasn’t interested in “feuding” with the vice president and that a simple statement could soften his stance.

“If he [Pence] wanted to clear this up, he could come out today and say he’s changed his mind ― that it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against anyone in this country for who they are,” Buttigieg told DeGeneres. “That’s all.” 

Elsewhere in the interview, DeGeneres suggested that her talk show would be the perfect place for Buttigieg to formally announce his candidacy for president. The mayor, however, has a different location in mind. 

“An announcement is something that you only get to do once,” he said. “I can think of no better place than here, except one ― which is my hometown.”

In recent weeks, the number of Democratic candidates to throw their hats into the 2020 ring by announcing a presidential campaign or exploratory committee has swelled to 18 ― which Buttigieg said is reflective of “a real kind of hinge between different eras in American history.” 

“The more voices, the more ideas, the more diversity there is in this field, the better off I think we’re going to be,” he said.