In 2015, Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana told his constituents “all lives matter.”
It’s a decision he apparently regrets.
Buttigieg was forced to address the first “controversy” in his quest for president this week when confronted about using the phrase in his State of the City Address in 2015.
Amid a series of race issues boiling in the city, Buttigieg said at the time it was a “time for South Bend to begin talking about racial reconciliation.”
“There is no contradiction between respecting the risks that police officers take every day in order to protect this community, and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently,” he said. “We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.”
Fast forward to 2019 and Buttigieg is courting black voters in New York City, and scrambling to explain why he used a phrase that’s apparently offensive to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Buttigieg addressed reporters Thursday after a speech at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention, where he garnered applause for stressing the importance of repeating “again and again that Black Lives Matter,” NBC News reports.
“What I did not understand that time was that phrase … was coming to be used as a sort of counter-slogan to Black Lives Matter,” Buttigieg said. “And so that statement, which seems very anodyne and something that nobody would be against, actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us,” he said. “Since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I stopped using it in that context.”
Buttigieg certainly isn’t the first politician to face blowback for saying the words “all lives matter.”
Hillary Clinton drew scorn in 2015 when she uttered the phrase during a speech about civil rights at the Christ the King United Church of Christ, a black congregation just north of Ferguson, Missouri.
Clinton recalled how her mother was abandoned as a teen and struggled as a maid, and the woman’s response when Clinton asked her “What kept you going?”
“Her answer was very simple. Kindness along the way from someone who believed she mattered,” Clinton said. “All lives matter.”
“That blew a lot of support that she may have been able to engender here,” Rev. Renita Lamkin told NPR at the time.
Buttigieg is looking to avoid the same fate as Clinton, who ironically lost the 2016 election to a man who repeatedly and proudly declared that “All Lives Matter” throughout his campaign.
The 37-year-old mayor, who represents a city that voted for President Trump by nearly 20 points over Clinton in 2016, has gained steam in his campaign for 2020 in recent weeks, recently polling third behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in Ohio. He’s also reportedly raised $7 million in the first quarter of 2019, an impressive sum for a candidate who was virtually unknown outside of his city until this year, The New York Times reports.
Regardless, some of the folks familiar with Buttigieg’s policies aren’t convinced he’s the progressive candidate he plays on TV, and they’re encouraging America to take a closer look behind the curtain.
“That’s four years ago, but it was not that long ago,” South Bend activist Nate Levin-Aspenson told CNBC. “It was not a time when ‘all lives matter’ was a smart thing to say, or reflective of someone who is concerned about black people being killed by the police.”
“What I would say is, take a closer look at what he is saying now, and compare that to his record as mayor. See what you find,” he said.