Pete Buttigieg hits back at Fox News host's criticism of his paternity leave

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US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has been on paternity leave since mid-August with newborn twins, called right-wing attacks on his paternity leave “strange” and from “a side of the aisle that used to claim the mantle of being pro-family”.

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

Buttigieg – who is gay – was the subject of criticism from Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Thursday, who belittled the secretary’s paternity leave while making homophobic comments and criticizing the administration for supply chain woes.

Related: Pete Buttigieg and husband Chasten announce birth of adopted twins

“In his case, I guess he just doesn’t understand the concept of bottle feeding let alone the concept of paternity lave,” Buttigieg said about Carlson on MSNBC. “What we have right now is an administration that’s actually pro-family,” said Buttigieg, who adopted newborn twins with his husband Chasten.

© Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, recently adopted newborn twins.

“I’m blessed to experience that as an employee, being able to have the flexibility to take care of our newborn children, which is by the way, work, it’s joyful work, it’s wonderful work, but it’s definitely work,” Buttigieg added.

The comments came after an attack by Carlson on his show. “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child,” Tucker Carlson told his Fox News audience on Thursday. “Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed – no word on how that went.”

In fact, Fox News provides paternity leave, and Carlson’s colleagues have previously praised the company’s six weeks of paid leave on-air.

“They give us six weeks as dads for paternity and I’m taking that six weeks,” Fox & Friends co-host Todd Piro told his viewers in March, according to the left-leaning research center Media Matters for America. “I can’t wait to bond with my little one.”

Similarly, Fox host Jesse Watters said he was “pro-paternity” after taking six weeks following the birth of his third child.

A transportation spokesperson said Buttigieg has been “ramping up activities” and is expected to “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children”, according to Politico.

Carlson is one of the most controversial figures in US media with a history of extremist and racist statements that have often angered advertisers but have won him a hardcore fanbase that makes his show consistently one of the most popular on cable news.

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