By Terrance Turner
July 10, 2022
Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg is winning praise online for his response to a Fox News host this morning.
In the wake of the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade and taking away the right to an abortion in last month’s Dobbs case, many abortion rights activists and pro-choice advocates have staged protests across the country. One of those protests was in downtown Washington, D.C., where Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (who voted with the majority in the Dobbs case) happened to be dining. On Wednesday night, protesters learned that Kavanaugh was eating a Morton’s Steakhouse downtown. According to Politico, “Protesters soon showed up out front, called the manager to tell him to kick Kavanaugh out and later tweeted that the justice was forced to exit through the rear of the restaurant.”
Politico reporter Daniel Lippmann confirmed the account. In the wake of the incident, Morton’s (which is owned by billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta, who also owns Saltgrass Steakhouse and Rainforest Cafe) issued a statement:
“Honorable Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh and all of our other patrons at the restaurant were unduly harassed by unruly protestors while eating dinner at our Morton’s restaurant. Politics, regardless of your side or views, should not trample the freedom at play of the right to congregate and eat dinner. There is a time and place for everything. Disturbing the dinner of all of our customers was an act of selfishness and void of decency.”
Many mocked the idea that Kavanaugh should be shielded from protesters while out in public. “Poor guy,” tweeted Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.). “He left before his soufflé because he decided half the country should risk death if they have an ectopic pregnancy within the wrong state lines. It’s all very unfair to him. The least they could do is let him eat cake.”
“Brett Kavanaugh’s Right to Dine Shall Not Be Infringed,” Esquire’s Jack Holmes teased. The New Republic’s Matt Ford examined medieval “sumptuary laws” that regulated private luxuries and concluded, “There Is No Constitutional Right to Eat Dinner.” Even Buttigieg’s husband Chasten got in on the fun when he responded to a post about the incident on Friday, tweeting that it sounds like Kavanaugh “just wanted some privacy to make his own dining decisions” — an obvious reference to the rights of women to make their decisions about their own bodies.
During an interview this morning on Fox News, host Mike Emmanuel asked Buttigieg if it was “appropriate” for demonstrators to protest outside a restaurant where Kavanaugh was dining. “Look, when public officials go into public life, you should expect two things: One, you should always be free from violence, harassment, or intimidation. And two: You’re never going to be free from criticism or peaceful protests, people exercising their First Amendment rights,” the Transportation secretary said.
“That’s what happened in this case,” he explained. “Remember, the justice never even came into contact with these protesters, reportedly didn’t see or hear them. And these protesters are upset because a right, an important right that the majority of Americans support, was taken away.”
“Not only the right to choose, by the way,” Buttigieg added, “but this justice was part of the process of stripping away the right to privacy. Since I’ve been alive, settled case law in the United States has been that the Constitution protected the right to privacy, and that has now been thrown out the window by justices, including Justice Kavanaugh, who as I recall, swore up and down in front of God and everyone including the United States Congress that they were going to leave settled case law alone. So yes, people are upset. They’re going to exercise their First Amendment rights. As long as that’s peaceful, they’re protected.”
“Compare that, for example, to the reality that as a country right now, we are reckoning with the fact that a mob summoned by the former president…” he added as Emmanuel interjected
“Alright. Let me follow up,” the Fox News host interrupted, while Buttigieg continued.
“…to the United States Capitol for the purpose of overthrowing the election and very nearly succeeded in preventing the peaceful transfer of power,” he argued. “I think common sense can tell the difference.”
Emmanuel made the mistake of asking a follow-up question.
“But as a high-profile public figure, sir, are you comfortable with protesters protesting when you and your husband go to dinner at a restaurant?” the Fox News host wondered.
“Protesting peacefully outside in a public space? Sure,” he responded. “Look, I can’t even tell you the number of spaces, venues and scenarios where I’ve been protested. And the bottom line is this. Any public figure should always — always — be free from violence, intimidation and harassment. But should never be free from criticism or people exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Buttigieg won praise online from Twitter users who commended his composure and command of the facts: