Buttigieg Claims Private Flight Saved Taxpayer Money

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg justified his travel on publicly-funded private jets by arguing it saves money for the taxpayer during an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” Thursday.

“Here’s the other criticism, you’ve been a big advocate for the environment, the administration’s climate change policy,” began Fox News host Bret Baier. “What do you say to people who ask, is it environmentally responsible to fly on private government jets when commercial options are available?”

Buttigieg replied, “Well, when we’re making a decision about what kind of aircraft to use, we weigh a lot of things. That’s one of the things we consider. So is saving taxpayers money. Now, I fly the majority of the time in economy class on an airliner, just like everybody else. … But there are cases where we use an FAA jet, a jet that’s assigned to my department. I’ll give you an example. I went to Wisconsin recently. This was last year, I think. … We saved taxpayers $2,000 by using the FAA jet instead of buying those airline tickets.”

Baier brought up several other flights, to which Buttigieg responded, “taxpayers are usually saving money when we do that.”

The transportation secretary faced controversy after a report revealed he had taken his male partner, Chasten Buttigieg, on a private aircraft to a sporting event in Rotterdam, Netherlands, last spring.

Critics of Buttigieg allege that former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned over a similar but even smaller scandal surrounding the use of taxpayer money for private air travel.

“Wild story – to summarize, while commercial air travel has been a disaster for you: Mayor Pete has taken 18 private jet flights. He took Chasten on a military plane to attend a sporting event in Europe. with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Tom Price resigned for much less,” posted Republican communicator Matt Whitlock.

Baier asked, “You also brought your husband, Chasten, on a military aircraft to attend a sporting event in the Netherlands…was that reimbursed because that was one of the controversies with Price?”

“Of course not,” answered Buttigieg, before he appeared to imply that he was being singled out because of his relationship with another man. “I led a presidential delegation to support American wounded warriors, injured servicemembers, [at] the Invictus Games, as has been a tradition for many years. I led the American delegation. It was one of the great honors of my time in this job. And the diplomatic protocol on a presidential delegation is that the principal is often accompanied by their spouse, it was a great trip. It was incredible. It was also a few weeks into the Ukraine War. So, we had a chance at the U.S. embassy to engage with the Ukrainian competitors, also wounded servicemembers. Some of them went from the games back to the battlefield to fight for their country. I also took the opportunity to sit with the prime minister of the Netherlands to look at the port infrastructure — Dutch port infrastructure. But here’s what I want you to understand: Before me, it was the Secretary of the Army under President Trump who took that trip with his wife. Before that, it was Mrs. Trump as First Lady who went to the Invictus Games. Before that, Mrs. Obama did the same thing. And I guess the question on my mind is if no one’s raising questions about why Secretary Esper and his wife led that delegation — as well they should have — then why is it any different when it’s me and my husband?”