Posted on February 20, 2020

Democrat Pete Buttigieg Overstated Pledges of Support from Black Leaders, Public Figures

Briana Stewart and Beatrice Peterson, ABC News, February 18, 2020

When Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg touted support from African American comedian and actor Keegan-Michael Key last week, his campaign was forced just hours later to clarify that the actor had not officially endorsed the former South Bend mayor, telling reporters he only sought to “encourage early voting and voter registration.”

Key appeared with Buttigieg on Saturday to drum up voter support at his Henderson, Nevada field office.

The gaffe did not attract much attention. However, it was not the first time the Buttigieg campaign overstated having a tie with a prominent African American figure, or black business.

In several instances reviewed by ABC News, the Buttigieg campaign identified people as supporters who later said their interactions had either been misunderstood or misconstrued.

The mix-ups have come at a crucial moment for Buttigieg’s campaign — which has made a concerted effort to promote his desire for inclusivity, even as polls show he faces an ongoing challenge finding support from voters of color.

Nationally, Buttigieg has support from 4% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning African-American voters, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released on Feb 10. {snip}

A key test of that support is in South Carolina, which hosts its Democratic primary next week. Black voters there make up nearly 30% of the state’s population and more than 60% of the Democratic primary electorate.

The first indications there was confusion about some of Buttigieg’s claims of support came in October, when the campaign issued a press release in South Carolina that identified Rehoboth Baptist pastor and state Rep. Ivory Thigpen, and Johnnie Cordero, chairman of the Democratic Black Caucus, as prominent backers of the candidate’s “Douglass Plan for Black America.”

The comprehensive proposal, named after abolitionist leader and author Frederick Douglass, which aims to tackle racial inequality and improve the lives of black Americans, had support– just not an official endorsement from those politicians named in the headline of the release.

“I never endorsed the Douglass Plan and it’s not necessarily that it was a bad plan, but people have got to understand, you can’t talk for black people, we’re very capable of speaking for ourselves,” Cordero told ABC News, adding that he was given no explanation as to why or how the mix-up occurred.

Then last week, Buttigieg wrote an op-ed in a major South Carolina newspaper saying his campaign has “proudly partnered with local businesses,” citing Diane’s Kitchen in Chester and Atlantis Restaurant in Moncks Corner. But when ABC News reached out to the entrepreneurs about these new partnerships, they only remembered welcoming Buttigieg’s campaign as customers, not forging any sort of partnership with the candidate.

“I stand for what I stand for and I didn’t say I had a partnership,” Diane Cole, the owner of Diane’s Kitchen, told ABC News on Friday, Feb. 14.


The Douglass Plan press release