A man at a Pete Buttigieg campaign event in Iowa Thursday offered the South Bend, Ind., mayor advice on handling the racial tensions in his city.
“I have a solution for you, and I’d like you to make a comment on my proposal. Just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crime and doing drugs,” the man said as a few in the crowd snickered and many more booed loudly.
“Sir, I think racism is not going to help us get out of this problem,” the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate replied, according to a video of the exchange posted on Twitter.
“No, no,” the man pushed back at Buttigieg, “just stop committing crimes; it has nothing to do with race.”
Since the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer in South Bend several weeks ago, Buttigieg has been asked to answer for his city’s racial inequalities. In recent weeks, Buttigieg has met privately with civil rights leaders such as Jesse Jackson and expressed contrition over his inability as mayor to do more to root out racism, particularly within the police department.
Speaking at a Democrats Fourth of July barbecue in Carroll, Iowa, Buttigieg told the man that the issues his town is facing do have to do with race.
“The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence of systematic racism,” Buttigieg said. “With all due respect, sir, racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job, too. It’s a smear on law enforcement.”
The video cut off with some in the crowd chanting, “USA, USA, USA.”
The questioner has been identified as Dave Begley, who contributes to Powerline, a website with a “conservative perspective.” This year, Begley has been writing dispatches from Democratic presidential campaign events in Iowa where he aims to ask the candidates’ provocative questions.
In April, after he attended a Beto O’Rourke event, the website wrote: “Dave again took his life in his hands to ask an unfriendly question from the Democratic crowd.”
Buttigieg’s campaign said there was no further interaction with Begley beyond what was shown in the video.