Mike Pence answers Pete Buttigieg's criticism: 'He knows better. He knows me'
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence defended his opposition to same-sex marriage in an interview Wednesday in which he also scolded Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg for making comments "critical of my Christian faith and about me personally."
"He knows better," Pence said in a CNBC interview that aired Thursday. "He knows me."
Asked by CNBC's Joe Kernen if his position on marriage equality had evolved in the past two decades as public opinion has shifted, Pence said: "My family and I have a view of marriage that’s informed by our faith."
Start the day smarter:Get USA TODAY's Daily Briefing in your inbox
Want news from USA TODAY on WhatsApp? Click this link on your mobile device to get started
"And we stand by that," Pence continued. "But that doesn’t mean that we’re critical of anyone else who has a different point of view."
His comments were the latest development in what Buttigieg, the openly-gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has called his "long and complicated relationship" with the former Indiana governor.
The Democrat and Republican worked together on economic development and other issues in Indiana.
“We had a great working relationship," Pence said on CNBC.
But Buttigieg was a vocal opponent of a "religious freedom" law Pence backed that critics called a license to discriminate against gay people.
As Buttigieg has been exploring a presidential bid that he's expected to make official Sunday, he's frequently criticized Pence and his record on gay rights issues.
In remarks Sunday that received widespread media attention, Buttigieg said he wished the “Mike Pences” of the world would understand that he didn’t choose to be gay.
“That if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator,” Buttigieg said at a fundraising brunch for a group that supports LGBTQ candidates.
After delivering a speech at the United Nations and before the CNBC interview Wednesday, Pence ignored shouted questions from reporters about whether he believes people choose to be gay.
'A voice from the Christian left':Buttigieg to Pence: If you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is with my creator
Republicans have accused Buttigieg of attacking Pence to raise his own profile, even though he previously had a cordial relationship with Pence.
The vice president, likewise, told Kernan that he understands the Democratic field is crowded and "they're all competing with one another for how much more liberal they are than the other."
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Buttigieg's attacks "have miffed the vice president, who has privately told allies that if Mr. Buttigieg had questions about his religious beliefs, he could have asked him at any time during their friendship."
Pence's wife and daughter have also weighed in this week as they've made media appearances promoting their new children's book about the family's pet rabbit.
“It’s perfectly OK for us to believe what we believe. People shouldn’t take that as us attacking what they believe,” Karen Pence said on Fox News Tuesday. “Mike Pence can believe what he believes. And Mayor Pete can believe what he believes.”
In the children's book that Charlotte Pence wrote and her mother illustrated, the family rabbit visits places in Washington meant to illustrate the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance. First stop is the Washington National Cathedral, which, the rabbit learns, is a symbol of religious freedom
"I wrote this book before religious liberty was a hot topic," Charlotte Pence said on Fox when asked about Buttigieg's criticisms of her father. "I think it is important for kids to learn at a young age that religious liberty means you can believe in God or you can not believe in God. And you don't have to be afraid to hold that belief."
Buttigieg, who talks often about his faith on the campaign trail, told reporters Monday that most Christians understand that it's not OK to discriminate against gay people.
"It's time to move on to a more inclusive and more humane vision of faith than what this vice president represents," he said.