Is the media infatuation with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg finally coming to a close? As Democrats get set to start their formal debates, Buttigieg sat down for an interview with MSNBC Live host Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday to talk about a wide range of topics, but most notably the shooting of Eric Logan and Buttigieg's response to it.
The shooting of Logan, an African American man who was shot and killed by a white police officer (Ruhle said that he was unarmed, but police say that he was wielding a knife. The dashboard and body cameras were not turned on and there are no other witnesses), led to a townhall where tensions were incredibly high and Buttigieg received high amounts of criticism. Meet the Press declared that his technocratic nature made it hard for him to empathize with people. On the other side, the police union said that Buttigieg was using the crisis, "solely for his political gain."
Given the high tensions in South Bend, Ruhle wondered why Buttigieg even showed up in Miami: "Given what's going on at home, should you be skipping this debate?" While an investigation takes place to find out what exactly happened between Logan and Sgt. Ryan O'Neill, Ruhle's question is an unexpected, but welcome one for a media that until recently has boosted Buttigieg's candidacy.
On Monday, NewsBusters' own Geoff Dickens came up with ten questions NBC should ask the Democratic candidates based off the infamous 2016 CNBC debate. One of them was:
This one is for Congressman O’Rourke and Mayor Buttigieg. You’ve been young men in a hurry ever since you won your first elections. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or at least finish what you start?”
Ruhle's question was perhaps as close to any of Dickens' questions as any of the moderators for Wednesday and Thursday's debates will come, but she was not done with the "why are you here?" questions:
How are you going to convince black voters of that on a national stage if you can't do it in your own hometown? You're currently polling at 1% with black voters as opposed to Joe Biden's 46%, and even if it's not a violence issue, you've got a poverty issue. You have had an economic turnaround in your city, yet 40% of black people in South Bend are dealing with poverty.
Here is a partial transcript for the June 26 interview:
MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle
9:02 AM ET
STEPHANIE RUHLE: The Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a 2020 contender Mayor Pete Buttigieg joins me now. Mayor Pete, welcome.
PETE BUTTIGIEG: Good morning, thanks for having me.
RUHLE: We're here because obviously you're running for president but you're also Mayor of South Bend. Your city is in crisis. Nearly two weeks ago, a white police officer shot a black man who was unarmed. Walk me through what the last two weeks have been like and, really, given what's going on at home, should you be skipping this debate?
BUTTIGIEG: No, we have to be able to do many things at once, but this is a moment when my community is in anguish. We've been on the ground working with community leaders, working with community members trying to make sure that the facts can emerge. But also recognizing that the anguish over what has happened is not only about a family that has lost a loved one, the family of Eric Logan, but also this ties to a much bigger set of issues that locally and nationally we have been dealing with. The feeling among black Americans that they are being literally policed to death, and making sure that we have a way forward on that. This is not just a policy question, this is a moral question. And everything that all of us do, we do in the shadow of systemic racism that has poisoned the relationship between communities of color and police departments everywhere in the country.
RUHLE: How are you going to convince black voters of that on a national stage if you can't do it in your own hometown? You're currently polling at 1% with black voters as opposed to Joe Biden's 46%, and even if it's not a violence issue, you've got a poverty issue. You have had an economic turnaround in your city, yet 40% of black people in South Bend are dealing with poverty.
BUTTIGIEG: That's right. It's a terrible inequality. I didn't create it, but I've been working side by side with members of the community to address it. It's why we've taken so many steps to invest in underinvested areas to try to deal with these crushing inequalities because you can't separate the role of race and poverty. And what's going on in, for example, the relationship of the black community to a criminal justice system that is not always about justice. All of these things are tied together, and that's the conversation we're having locally and the conversation we have to have with black voters and the country as a whole.
RUHLE: If you're addressing it, why do you remain polling so low?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think as more voters get to hear our message, then we will have more support just like I've been able to earn support from black voters at home in South Bend. Not by pretending these problems are anything other than extremely serious, sometimes intractable, yet walking side by side to address them and yet we know that no city has solved this, no president has solved this. If our country doesn't figure out a way to tackle these issues in my lifetime, I think they could tear the American project apart.