“I don’t know why you would want to be in a room with other people if you were contagious with a deadly disease and you care about other people,” Buttigieg said to “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy last Thursday. “But maybe the President doesn’t care about other people.”
Even as Buttigieg called out a “weakness of [Trump’s] campaign,” Doocy — a reliable Trump ally on the President’s favorite morning show — nodded along in agreement as the former South Bend mayor spoke.
Fox News declined to comment for this story.
Cutting through the fog
Buttigieg has been making media appearances as a surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign — showing up on national TV networks and on Instagram Live. But Buttigieg’s hits on Fox News have been gaining attention for his ability to cut through the fog of Trump boosters on the network.
“His threshold for doing a media hit at this point is, if it would be helpful to the Biden-Harris campaign, or for Democrats up and down the ballot, he’s eager to do it,” Buttigieg spokesperson Sean Savett told CNN Business in the wake of his recent viral fame.
Buttigieg is effective because he answers questions in a straightforward manner, leading with facts and not opinions or hypotheticals. He speaks calmly, and he rarely raises his voice. But his internet appeal stems from his delivery: perfect sound bites that are easily edited, memeable and which embody the dry sarcasm that the internet loves. All of this makes for good fodder for people on Twitter and TikTok.
TJ Ducklo, national press secretary for the Biden-Harris campaign, called Buttigieg an “extremely effective messenger.”
“We believe there are a number of Fox News viewers who are fed up with Donald Trump’s incompetence and his failed leadership to get this virus under control, and Mayor Pete has been an extremely effective messenger at laying out Vice President Biden’s vision for those folks in a way that’s not necessarily confrontational — given the often hostile environment on Fox — but that is rational and well-reasoned, and that we believe can appeal to a number of undecided voters across the country,” Ducklo told CNN Business.
“There’s a classic parlor game of trying to find a little bit of daylight between running mates,” Buttigieg said. “If people want to play that game we could look into why an evangelical Christian like Mike Pence wants to be on a ticket with a president caught with a porn star.”
“What we’re going to see tonight is two very different people with two very different ideas for what matters. We’re going to see President Trump turn on the distraction machine like he always does, think up something crazy to get the Twittersphere going, and Vice President Biden is going to be talking about us — not us political figures — us the American people,” Buttigieg said.
Savett said Buttigieg believes it is important to “go on the shows that may not otherwise hear a Democratic perspective.”
“Something that Pete says a lot that always resonates with me is that we can’t blame voters or be mad at voters for not supporting our candidate if they don’t hear our message,” Savett added. “He knows we can’t win the general election just by preaching to the choir.”
No stranger to Fox News
Last Thursday, Smith retweeted one of Buttigieg’s recent Fox News appearances, teasing some political strategists who question whether Democrats should appear on the network.
“We need to be talking to everyone,” Smith told Stelter last year, when Buttigieg was still on the campaign trail. “Even if we don’t agree with folks on everything I think it’s important to go out, get your message out there, but also treat people with differing opinions with respect.”
Smith did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump, for one, has expressed dismay on at least one occasion about Buttigieg appearing on his home turf, chiding Fox for “wasting airtime” on those town halls.