Fact Check: Did Pete Buttigieg Call For Jefferson to be Wiped From U.S. History?


A series of frantic tweets over the weekend might have led many to believe that Pete Buttigieg had declared his desire to wipe any trace of Thomas Jefferson off the face of the earth.

The tweets, which included missives from New York Times columnist Bret Stephens and Fox News host Laura Ingraham, were based off a wildly inaccurate New York Post story on Buttigieg’s comments from a radio show.

“Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg called for everything honoring Thomas Jefferson to be renamed,” the Post reported on Saturday.

The prompted a furious tweet from Stephens, who fretted: “While we’re at it, Mayor Pete, let’s knock down the FDR Memorial (didn’t do enough to stop the Holocaust) and the Washington monument (slaveholder). Also the South Bend mayor should apologize for accepting a scholarship named after (racist) Cecil Rhodes.”

“Every 2020 Dem shd be pressed on whether they agree with @PeteButtigieg on removing Thomas Jefferson’s name from streets, schools, etc,” Ingraham wrote on Twitter. “#antihistoryparty”

Despite the inaccurate Post story, however, Buttigieg never called for everything honoring Jefferson to be renamed, and explicitly stated he didn’t intend on “blotting him out of the history books.” His actual comments, made on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, were nuanced. Here they are in full:

Hewitt: Let’s go to policy now. A very blunt question, because you talk about going to every Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Indiana when you were running statewide. Should Jefferson-Jackson dinners be renamed everywhere because both were holders of slaves?

Buttigieg: Yeah, we’re doing that in Indiana. I think it’s the right thing to do. You know, over time, you develop and evolve on the things you choose to honor. And I think we know enough, especially Jackson, you know, you just look at what basically amounts to genocide that happened here. Jefferson’s more problematic. You know, there’s a lot to, of course, admire in his thinking and his philosophy. Then again, as you plunge into his writings, especially the notes on the state of Virginia, you know that he knew that slavery was wrong.

Hewitt: Yes.

Buttigieg: And yet, he did it. Now we’re all morally conflicted human beings. And it’s not like we’re blotting him out of the history books, or deleting him from being the founder fathers. But you know, naming something after somebody confers a certain amount of honor. And at a time, I mean, the real reason I think there’s a lot of pressure on this is the relationship between the past and the present, that we’re finding in a million different ways that racism isn’t some curiosity out of the past that we’re embarrassed about but moved on from. It’s alive, it’s well, it’s hurting people. And it’s one of the main reasons to be in politics today is to try to change or reverse the harms that went along with that. Then, we’d better look for ways to live out and honor that principle, even in a symbolic thing.

Hewitt noted on Twitter that Buttigieg’s comments were being misconstrued. Stephens, to his credit, deleted his tweet and added an admission of his inaccuracy. Ingraham doubled down on the falsehood, for some reason, and the New York Post story remains online, uncorrected.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asked Buttigieg about his comments at their town hall Sunday night, and the mayor said he was speaking strictly about renaming Democratic party functions like the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, and had no intention of renaming streets, for example.

“This is a great example, actually, of how the media noise machine on the right wing takes things out of control,” Buttigieg told Wallace.

That appeal for nuanced analysis didn’t stop Fox & Friends, which covered Buttigieg’s comments on Monday morning with the chyron: “ERASING HISTORY?”

“What a clown,” host Brian Kilmeade said of Buttigieg.

Watch above, via Fox News.

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Aidan McLaughlin is the Editor of Mediaite. Send tips via email: aidan@mediaite.com. Ask for Signal. Follow him on Twitter: @aidnmclaughlin