Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg and a Norfolk Southern employee dodged questions from reporters in East Palestine, Ohio.
Turning Point USA (TPUSA) reporter Kalen D’Almeida confronted Buttigieg during his Thursday visit to the Ohio community regarding his response to the disaster earlier this month.
“The American public doesn’t seem to be very confident in your ability to do your job,” D’Almeida said. “Will you be resigning anytime soon?”
“I’m not here for politics,” the Transportation Secretary responded. “I’m here to make sure the community can get what they need.”
D’Almeida attempted to press Buttigieg’s apparent slow response to the disaster, though was cut off by the DOT Secretary who appeared to suggest he wanted to talk with community leaders.
EAST PALESTINE, OHIO:
I confronted @SecretaryPete about the lack of confidence from the American public to do his job and whether or not he will apologize for the dramatically delayed response to the #eastpalastine Norfolk Southern train derailment which released toxic… https://t.co/Tekd2nbyR8 pic.twitter.com/TBXaR3M4LQ
— Kalen D’Almeida (@fromkalen) February 23, 2023
Buttigieg walked away as fellow TPUSA reporter Savanah Hernandez followed from behind asking why it took two-and-a-half weeks to visit the community.
“Will you apologize to the residents of this city for … the government’s response?” Hernandez asked as a woman who identified herself as Buttigieg’s press secretary, Kerry Arndt, said she could respond for the Transportation Secretary.
Hernandez repeated her question as Arndt insisted she didn’t wish to answer questions on camera.
D’Almeida questioned Arndt about Buttigieg’s alleged “time off” while residents weathered the effects of the disaster. Hernandez similarly pressed Arndt about Buttigieg’s decision to appear in East Palestine after former President Donald Trump visited the community on Wednesday.
“I’m happy to have a conversation with you. I do not want to be on camera,” Arndt responded.
I asked Sec. Buttigieg why it took him almost 3 weeks to come and speak to residents of East Palestine.
His press Secretary then told me I was aggressive for trying to ask questions on camera: pic.twitter.com/bOB52DIq0O
— Savanah Hernandez (@sav_says_) February 23, 2023
Another man requested Hernandez turn her camera off to which the reporter noted the group was in a public area.
“If you are the press secretary of the Secretary of the [DOT] don’t you think you should be able to ask questions from the American public?” Hernandez rebutted.
“I think that is a little bit aggressive,” Arndt responded.
The man continued by suggesting Hernandez turn her camera off, prompting an officer to intervene and note Arndt was able to walk away if she didn’t wish to engage.
Another reporter asked Arndt about Buttigieg’s photo request from Daily Caller reporter Jennie Taer.
Hernandez stood in frame and reiterated reporters were there on behalf of the American public, noting “the people have been quite tight knit about when we can ask questions.”
“We wish we could be able to ask these questions, but for some reason … we’re [not allowed to].”
Buttigieg has been criticized for his handling of the derailment which led to the controlled release of toxic chemicals per Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro — reportedly at the recommendation of Norfolk Southern.