Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is lashing out at his critics who said he should have visited the East Palestine, Ohio, train wreck site earlier and questioned his footwear.
His comments come after a second Norfolk Southern train derailed on Saturday near Springfield, Ohio – the second such incident in just over a month.
Buttigieg, who made a trip to East Palestine 20 days after the train crash which caused toxic chemicals to be released into the air, said on Monday that it was “maddening” that so much attention was drawn to the shoes he wore.
The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor was called out by several Republican lawmakers for wearing what appeared to be leather dress shoes while surveying the damage, instead of a more heavy-duty work boot.
“Who cares what shoes I was wearing, when I was there to draw attention to an agenda that will save lives on our railroads?” Buttigieg said in an interview with CNN.
Buttigieg contends it would not have made any substantive difference in his department’s response if he had gone earlier since there was very little of the immediate accident response that has anything to do with the agency he controls, according to the report.
“Yet he acknowledged it probably would have helped the residents in East Palestine to see one of the better-known political figures in the country there to show them that they were being heard, even if no previous transportation secretaries toured derailment sites,” the report says.
Buttigieg said former President Trump’s visit a day earlier was “somewhat maddening – to see someone who did a lot try to gut not just rail safety regulations, but the EPA, which is the number one thing standing between that community and a total loss of accountability for Norfolk Southern and then show up giving out bottled water and campaign swag?”