The White House defended Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s handling of the Ohio train derailment in East Palestine, blaming Republicans and former President Donald Trump.
Buttigieg has received criticism from Republicans, Democrats and residents of East Palestine for not sufficiently reacting to the Feb. 3 train derailment, which spewed toxic chemicals into the air and prompted evacuations and shelter-in-place orders due to health concerns. Buttigieg took 10 days to address the spill, and he made a trip to the city 20 days after the disaster. President Joe Biden has no public plans to visit the city, despite pleas from residents for the federal government to do more.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said the White House has “absolute confidence” in Buttigieg’s abilities, and other White House staff have blamed Republicans for jeopardizing rail safety.
The criticisms of Buttigieg “are bad faith attacks from Republicans who have been in lockstep with the rail lobby to unravel safety protections,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said Wednesday, Politico reported.
Some Republicans owe East Palestine residents an “apology,” Bates said.
“Congressional Republicans and former Trump Administration officials owe East Palestine an apology for selling them out to rail industry lobbyists when they dismantled Obama-Biden rail safety protections as well as EPA powers to rapidly contain spills,” he told USA TODAY. (RELATED: ‘Do My Part’: Business Owners Offer Aid To East Palestine After Train Derailment)
Buttigieg is visiting East Palestine on Thursday, one day after former President Donald Trump made the trip. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have deployed aid and have been in “close” coordination with East Palestine officials, the White House said in a statement.
The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Jennie Taer asked Buttigieg what his message to the residents of East Palestine is, while the transportation secretary took a walk around Washington, D.C., Tuesday.
I asked Secretary Buttigieg about the crisis in East Palestine and I guess he didn’t like that so he took a pic of me. Im just doing my job, sir. @DailyCaller pic.twitter.com/HjKNgF25FJ
— Jennie Taer (@JennieSTaer) February 22, 2023
“I’d refer you to about a dozen interviews I’ve given today, and if you’d like to arrange a conversation, make sure to reach out to our press office… Right now I’m taking some personal time,” Buttigieg said.