Buttigieg: My Private Flights Save Taxpayers Money, We Do Consider the Environment

On Thursday’s broadcast of the Fox News Channel’s “Special Report,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg defended his air travel on private government jets despite the climate impact of doing so by arguing that doing so saves taxpayers money and this fact makes it different from former HHS Secretary Tom Price’s actions.

Host Bret Baier asked, [relevant exchange begins around 6:50] “Here’s the other criticism, you’ve been a big advocate for the environment, the administration’s climate change policy. What do you say to people who ask, is it environmentally responsible to fly on private government jets when commercial options are available?”

Buttigieg responded, “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.”

After Baier listed other flights, Buttigieg stated that the “taxpayers are usually saving money when we do that.”

Baier then pointed to the controversy over the travels of former HHS Secretary Tom Price, which led to Price leaving office, Buttigieg countered, “And did Secretary Price save taxpayers money by doing that? I don’t think he did.”

Baier then 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?”

Buttigieg responded, “Of course not. I led a presidential delegation to support American wounded warriors, injured servicemembers, [at] the Invictus Games, as has been 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 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?”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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