The untold truth of Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg has been the Mayor of South Bend, Ind. since 2012, but became an overnight national sensation as a 2020 presidential hopeful for the Democratic party. After announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to run for the office in January 2019, the Millennial politician — he was born in 1982, folks — managed to snag a series of high-profile interviews on the likes of Morning Joe and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, to name just a couple. Despite his young age and seemingly lack of political experience, he subsequently launched his career to new heights with the hope of making history as the first openly gay President of the United States.

Given Buttigieg's low-key profile before officially entering the presidential race that April, it's understandable that potential supporters and longtime fans alike are eager to know more about his background. Although he's opened up about his military history as a former naval intelligence officer, as well as his coming out story and impressive affinity for languages, there hasn't been quite as much talk about Buttigieg's family life, past controversies, and more in the news. Luckily for those who are burning with curiosity, we've uncovered all of the juicy details about this young politician's life in the untold truth of Pete Buttigieg.

He was the target of an alleged smear campaign

It's no secret the world of politics can get dirty — a sentiment Pete Buttigieg dealt with firsthand when he found himself at the center of an alleged smear campaign in April 2019. It all started when a college student named Hunter Kelly allegedly took to the online publishing platform Medium to falsely claim that he'd been sexually assaulted by Buttigieg. The post quickly gained steam on Facebook and was shared by various conservative websites like InfoWars and Big League Politics, according to CNN. However, it soon came to light that alt-right conspiracy theorist and troll Jacob Wohl and disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman reportedly enlisted Kelly to fabricate the story. 

"Do you want to be part of a political operation?" Wohl supposedly wrote to Kelly on Instagram. The news outlet reported that Kelly, a gay man who's also a supporter of President Donald Trump, was later flown out to Burkman's house in Washington, D.C., where the alleged scheme was concocted. Although Kelly was supposedly "incredibly uncomfortable" with the plan, Wohl allegedly published the piece while he was fast asleep. Eventually, Kelly came clean in a post on Facebook, stating in part, "It's important for everyone to know that I was not sexually assaulted and would never falsely accuse anyone." 

According to The Daily Beast, when asked about the situation, Buttigieg simply said, "Politics can be ugly sometimes, but you have to face that when you're in presidential politics."

His past isn't without controversy

Although Buttigieg's presidential campaign boasts progressive slogans and rhetoric, he stumbled into controversial territory in April 2019. At the time, it was revealed that the mayor had said "all lives matter" while calling for South Bend, Ind. "to begin talking about racial reconciliation" during a city address four years earlier (via The New York Times). Readers may already be aware that some activists, especially those who support the Black Lives Matter movement, have argued that the "all lives matter" counterpoint has taken the group's message out of context, according to Relevant Magazine. Supporting Black Lives Matter doesn't mean that you don't value other lives; rather, this campaign was designed to draw awareness to racial inequality in America.

For his part, Buttigieg later clarified that he meant no harm by the remark and has since educated himself on the issue. "What I did not understand at that time, was that phrase, just early into mid-2015, was coming to be viewed as a sort of counter slogan to Black Lives Matter," he told reporters, per CNN. "And so, this statement, that seems very anodyne and something that nobody could be against, actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us." 

Hey, at the very least, this scandal showed that Buttigieg is comfortable with some self-reflection.

Wait, what's Hinge?

Every couple has a story about how they met, whether it concerns who introduced them or who asked whom out first. However, Pete and Chasten Buttigieg's love story began on Hinge, a dating app that's "designed to be deleted," according to its website. Translation: This is a place for optimistic singles to find lasting love.

The couple's road to romance began in 2015, just months after Pete Buttigieg publicly came out as a gay man in an essay written for the South Bend Tribune. While discussing the first time he laid eyes on his future husband, the mayor revealed on The Van Jones Show, "As soon as I saw his pic, there was something in his eyes. I said, 'I gotta meet this guy.' And then I did." (Cue the chorus of "awws.") Unlike the popular dating app Tinder, he didn't "swipe right" on humanities teacher Chasten Buttigieg (né Glezman), but instead sent him a "like." It's a similar concept, but a different format. 

The lovebirds tied the knot just three years later. And, of course, Hinge CEO Justin McLeod was especially thrilled about the couple's success story with the app, telling Slate, "Obviously it's really exciting for us to think that we could have paired a first couple." We can't say for certain, but we have a feeling Hinge's customer base may have expanded ever since the Buttigieges' meet-cute went public.

Not everyone is happy about his marriage

Although many of Pete and Chasten Buttigieg's loved ones are on board with their marriage, some of their family members unfortunately don't support their union — including the latter's own brother, Rhyan Glezman. "I want the best for him," the Christian pastor told The Washington Post. "I just don't support the gay lifestyle."

Meanwhile, the publication noted that Chasten Buttigieg's parents also weren't initially supportive, and went so far as to kick their son out of their home after he came out as gay. However, the two eventually came around following a change of heart. "Just FYI: My parents walked me down the aisle," Chasten wrote on Twitter. "My dad leveled the parking lot of our reception venue with his own two hands. My mom and I danced and shared ice cream long into the night. My parents are amazing and Peter's biggest fans. I'm so proud of them." No, we're not crying … that's just dust in our eyes.

As of this writing, it's unclear whether Chasten Buttigieg's brother will ever have a similar turnaround to his parents, but there's a good chance this prospective First Gentleman will be okay either way. "Your time in the closet and your journey to coming out belong to you," he tweeted. "You are not required to open healed wounds or write lengthy threads in order to explain your worth to others who aren't willing to see it themselves. You matter first." Well said.

He really loves Indiana

If you have ever doubted Pete Buttigieg's love for Indiana, just check out his wedding announcement in The New York Times. Pete and Chasten Buttigieg's special day was basically one big love letter to the politician's home state, complete with catered food from various restaurants in South Bend. From ice cream "flavored with honey harvested from community gardens" to "whiskey from an Indiana distillery," every item at the couple's reception paid homage to their beloved home. 

"We have a lot of people coming from other places, and we wanted to give them a window and a glimpse into this really cool city," Chasten Buttigieg said of their sweet dedication to the publication. "People think Indiana must be a drab place to be." Pete Buttigieg echoed his husband's sentiment, telling the media outlet, "There are so many things about the community we have a chance to feature." Considering the fact that their first date took place in South Bend, we think it's pretty cool that the married pair went this route. All hail the Hoosier State.

Busted at Harvard

Once upon a time, Pete Buttigieg was a college student at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. While he graduated magna cum laude from the prestigious school, according to The Daily Beast, the future Rhodes Scholar's time there wasn't entirely perfect. For instance, there was the time the admittedly squeaky clean student got busted for smoking marijuana on campus — years before the state legalized its recreational use

While speaking at South By Southwest in March 2019, Buttigieg revealed that he encountered the drug by chance while walking "home from a party or something." He explained, "I ran into a friend and he had an acquaintance with him, and we were chatting, and at some point I noticed that she was smoking a joint. And just out of curiosity — there was like a little bit left — I was like 'Oh, is that…' And she handed it to me." A university police car drove by the moment he took a puff, and a scared Buttigieg threw the "joint" over his shoulder, which prompted the officer to grill him over his supposed smoking habits. His genuine ignorance concerning drugs came across as flippant, and the officer supposedly yelled, "You f**king arrogant Harvard kids think you can just go out here and smoke this." Yikes!

Luckily, Buttigieg was eventually let go. However, he attributed this to his white male privilege, arguing that a person of color might have had their college career "derailed" over the matter.

His dad's last words were incredibly moving

Shortly after launching his exploratory committee to run for president in January 2019, Pete Buttigieg tragically lost his beloved father, Joseph Buttigieg. While discussing the heartbreaking loss with his local NewsCenter 16, the politician said, "It's been strange to do it without him, because there are so many moments I would want to call him or send an article to him or see what he thinks about something." Buttigieg also touched on his dad's passing on Facebook, in a post which he revealed the patriarch's poignant final words. "The last thing he said to us was, 'it's been a good trip,'" Buttigieg wrote. "So it has. We love you, Dad." (Can someone please grab us a box of tissues stat?) 

Although it's sad to know that Joseph Buttigieg won't have the chance to witness his son out and about on the 2020 campaign trail, we have a feeling the presidential hopeful will keep his memory and inspiring words close to his heart.

His mother suffered a health scare during a tough time

Dealing with an illness in the family can be tough, especially when coping with more than one. This is a sentiment to which Pete Buttigieg can relate after witnessing his mother, Jennifer Anne Montgomery, falling ill while his father battled cancer. In October 2018, the presidential candidate opened up about this serious turn of events on Facebook, writing, "Dad and I just left Mom's bedside at the hospital, where she is resting tonight after heart bypass surgery." He added, "We were all surprised by this turn of events but she has faced it with her characteristic toughness and good humor. She is receiving superb care and we expect a full recovery in time."

Experiencing this difficult period in his personal life ultimately informed Buttigieg's views on healthcare in America. "You want your decision-making to be as free as possible from things that shouldn't matter," he told MSNBC in April 2019. "And so, as example of that, that I reflect on a lot in the context of healthcare coverage, is that while we were making decisions about supporting dad in his final weeks, as he was losing his struggle with cancer, we were just thinking about the medical side, not the financial side, except for one period where we were looking at long-term care."

That time Buttigieg saved the day

As the mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg is known to closely interact with his constituents. Case in point: In the early morning hours of April 1, 2019, he officiated the last-minute wedding of expecting parents. While opening up about the unexpected turn of events on Facebook, the politician revealed that he ran into the eager couple while getting ready to start his day at the office, writing, "In my mind I saw the rare few minutes of free time I had left vanishing, and without meaning to be discouraging, tried to hint that I did not have a lot of time for unplanned meetings." He added, "Reluctantly, I showed them in to the front part of our office and promised someone would try to take care of whatever their issue was."

However, Buttigieg changed his tune once he found out what had actually prompted the visit. "That's when Mary and Gabe explained that she was on her way to the hospital for a 9:00 a.m. appointment for a c-section," he wrote. "And they were hoping they could be married before she delivered. (It must have been 8:15 or so.) She had the paperwork and everything in a folder along with her hospital papers, and they wanted to see if I could do the honors." Of course, Buttigieg was happy to oblige their impromptu request, just hours before the duo welcomed their first daughter into the world. How sweet is that?

His finances are on an upswing

One area of intrigue in Pete Buttigieg's life concerns his finances. While he transparently opened up about this topic by releasing his tax returns from 2009 to 2018 via his campaign site, the documents in question painted a very interesting story. To start, Buttigieg's income has steadily increased throughout the years. After earning a little less than $34,000 in 2010, that figure jumped to a over $152,000 in 2018, according to Politico. Of course, it's important to note that this latter number combined both his and husband Chasten Buttigieg's incomes — but it's still a pretty impressive leap. The presidential hopeful also received a whopping $30,000 advance for his book, Shortest Way Home, in 2017. To put that figure in perspective, former Vice President Joe Biden received a $9,563 advance to record the audio book for his own memoir, Promises to Keep, just 10 years earlier.

Despite Buttigieg's financial gains over the years, Fox News reports that he's actually "among the least wealthy" out of the 2020 Democratic candidates. Oh, well … it's still not too shabby for a Millennial.