South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg used a campaign rally on Saturday to address concerns that running as a white man from a privileged background could keep him from understanding female and minority issues.
“I may be part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. But being a gay man doesn’t even tell me what it’s like to be a trans woman of color in that same community, let alone an undocumented mother of four or a disabled veteran or a displaced autoworker,” Buttigieg said at the event hosted by the Human Rights Campaign.
Buttigieg’s rallies have been filled with a mostly white audience. He has had rapid and incredible success fundraising – his campaign wallet is fuller than the majority of his Democratic rivals. His donors and supporters include some of the wealthiest LGBT people in the country, from television producer Richie Jackson to Bryan Rafanelli and Mark Walsh, longtime confidants of the Clintons.
However, Buttigieg has admitted that his “first serious mistake as mayor” was firing Darryl Boykins, South Bend’s first ever Black police chief, after Boykins recorded phone conversations of his officers saying racist things. The officers didn’t know they were being recorded and Boykins confronted them about it.
The officers reported Boykins to the FBI, which resulted in a wiretapping investigation. Buttigieg came under fire when he kept the information about the investigation to himself and then abruptly asked for Boykins resignation two months later without even listening to the tapes.
Buttigieg and chief of staff Mike Schmuhl were later sued for “racial animus” by Boykins. Police Communications Director Karen DePaepe, whose recordings of the conversations led to the FBI being notified by the officers, sued for wrongful termination. Both lawsuits led to settlements by the city in 2013 for $575,000.