Pete Buttigieg’s team asks conservative media to stop recording press officer during East Palestine visit

Press secretary said she would answer questions off-camera

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 23 February 2023 18:04 GMT
Related video: Pete Buttigieg’s press secretary tells reporter to stop filming during visit to Ohio

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s team asked a group of conservative media workers to stop acting “aggressive” and asked them to stop filming their interactions during the cabinet member’s visit to East Palestine, Ohio.

Mr Buttigieg was visiting the site of a Norfolk Southern train derailment in the village on Thursday when the encounter took place.

During his visit, a member of conservative youth group Turning Points USA filmed herself following Mr Buttigieg and asking if he was going to “apologise” to East Palestine for the “slow response.”

Department of Transportation and National Transportation Safety Board officials were in East Palestine just hours after the derailment, and have remained there since.

Mr Buttigieg ignored the woman and disappeared inside a building. His press secretary, however, invited the woman holding the camera to discuss her questions on the condition she not film the interaction.

A back-and-forth ensues between Mr Buttigieg’s press secretary and the conservative media members. The TPUSA member asks Mr Buttigieg’s press secretary why she won’t answer questions, she replies by saying she’s happy to answer questions, just not while being filmed.

When the TPUSA member asks why she wants the cameras off, Mr Buttigieg’s press secretary replies “because I think that’s a little bit aggressive.”

At one point during the exchange another man — whose connection to the press secretary is unclear — asks the TPUSA member to turn off her camera, prompting her to correctly point out that the encounter was happening in public, where she has a right to film.

At the end of the video the press secretary invites another reporter to chat further away from the scrum and out of microphone range.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg walking through East Palestine as a conservative activist with Turning Point USA films him (screengrab/Twitter/Savanah Hernandez)

Mr Buttigieg has been a frequent target for right-wing and some progressive critics since the train derailment in East Palestine.

He suggested on Thursday that the focus on his personal response to the derailment was, to some extent, political theatre.

He wrote on Twitter that he was “happy to discuss timing of our Ohio visit - but starting to think some in Washington want that to be the main focus so that there aren’t too many questions about rail safety regulation, who is for and who is against. We will hold the line on railroad safety and accountability.”

Mr Buttigieg arrived in the village the day after former President Donald Trump toured the scene of the train derailment. Mr Trump spent his brief stop in Ohio bashing Joe Biden, distributing “Trump water,” and buying a McDonald’s lunch for the village’s first responders.

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