White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back on a Newsmax reporter who questioned Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's paternity leave.
"I'm not going to apologize for" family leave, Psaki told the reporter.
Buttigieg was "mostly offline" for four weeks after the arrival of his twins in mid-August, the Transportation Department said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday pushed back on a Newsmax reporter who questioned Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg being on paternity leave while the country faces supply chain problems.
"Wouldn't it be wise for the secretary to get back on the bicycle, so to speak, and come back to work?" Emerald Robinson, a White House correspondent for the conservative site Newsmax, asked Psaki during a press briefing.
"He's at work," Psaki replied. "I was on a conference call with him this morning."
"He's in the department now? Everyday?" Robinson asked.
"Listen Emerald, I think what you're getting at here is this question about whether men, parents, women should have paternity and maternity leave, and the answer is absolutely yes," Psaki responded. Paid family leave is a Biden administration policy - one that the president wants to implement for all Americans as part of his Build Back Better agenda, she added.
"We're not going to back away from that," Psaki continued.
-Acyn (@Acyn) October 19, 2021
As Robinson went on to press Psaki on the subject, the White House press secretary grew visibly frustrated and brought up taking maternity leave while she worked for the Obama administration.
"Just to be clear, we are quite confident with the capabilities, the talents of the civil servants, the leadership at the Department of Transportation," Psaki said. "I took 12 weeks of maternity leave when I was the White House communications director and I'm grateful to former President Obama for that and for leadership at the time for that."
She added: "This is something men, women should have. They should have this time to bond with their children. I'm not going to apologize for that from here. And certainly, we are able to get the job done for the American people in the interim."
-Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) September 4, 2021
Buttigieg's paternity leave has sparked outrage on the right as conservative figures, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson and commentator Candace Owens, criticized the transportation secretary for taking time away from work.
After spending a year trying to adopt, Buttigieg and his husband Chasten welcomed twins in mid-August. Upon their arrival, Buttigieg was "mostly offline" for four weeks to care for his newborns with the exception of "major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated," a Department of Transportation spokesperson told Insider last week.
Buttigieg has since been having meetings with business and labor leaders about the global supply chain, conducting media interviews, and touting President Joe Biden's bipartisan infrastructure bill at events.
"Like other hardworking parents, the Secretary is balancing his work and family life. As he's ramping up activities, he'll continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children," the department spokesperson said.
Buttigieg has defended himself amid the criticism, telling CNN on Sunday that he's "not going to apologize to Tucker Carlson or anyone else for taking care of my premature newborn infant twins."
"The work that we are doing is joyful, fulfilling, wonderful work. It's important work," he said.
Tuesday's exchange comes as the US confronts global supply chain issues with higher consumer prices and shipping delays. The Biden administration last week unveiled plans to help combat the problem by operating the Port of Los Angeles 24/7 to clear a backlog and having big companies such as Walmart and FedEx open for longer hours to help move goods.
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