The transportation secretary made the remarks on Sunday when asked about his recent visit to East Palestine, Ohio — the site of a train derailment that led to a massive toxic chemical spill
Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg hit back at critics of his recent visit to the site of a toxic train derailment site, saying the claims that he visited the area only because Donald Trump did were “bulls—.”
Buttigieg made the remarks in an interview with CNN on Sunday, when asked about his recent visit to East Palestine, Ohio — the site of a train derailment that led to a massive toxic chemical spill and forced residents to evacuate.
Buttigieg’s visit came one day after the former president also paid a visit to the site, making headlines for stopping at a local McDonald’s to buy meals for a group of first responders.
Buttigieg, a 40-year-old Navy Reserve vet and a history-making mayor and presidential candidate, told CNN that he found Trump’s visit to be “somewhat maddening” in light of the regulatory and safety rollbacks made in his administration.
“To see someone who did a lot try to gut not just rail safety regulations, but the EPA, which is the number one thing standing between that community and a total loss of accountability for Norfolk Southern, and then show up giving out bottled water and campaign swag?” Buttigieg said of Trump.
As for suggestions that he made the trip only because he felt pressure to do so due to Trump’s visit, Buttigieg was quick to say such claims were “bull—-.”
“We were already going to go,” the transportation secretary added.
Nearly half of the residents in the Ohio village of East Palestine — which has a population of more than 4,700 and is located about 50 miles from Pittsburgh — saw their lives upended when 50 rail cars filled with chemicals and combustible materials ran off the track last month.
One of those chemicals was vinyl chloride, a toxic flammable gas. And shortly after the derailment, a massive fire erupted, sending enormous clouds of pitch-black smoke into the air and forcing evacuations on both sides of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
Speaking to CNN, Buttigieg said he should have gone to the site of the derailment earlier — but he dismissed criticism from Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson, who have cast him as something of a “liberal elite” for the East Palestine response, despite that no other transportation secretary has historically ever visited a derailment site.
“It’s really rich to see some of these folks — the former president, these Fox hosts — who are literally lifelong card-carrying members of the East Coast elite, whose top economic policy priority has always been tax cuts for the wealthy, and who wouldn’t know their way around a T.J. Maxx if their life depended on it, to be presenting themselves as if they genuinely care about the forgotten middle of the country,” Buttigieg told CNN. “You think Tucker Carlson knows the difference between a T.J. Maxx and a Kohl’s?”[via]