Buttigieg says he's stopped using phrase 'all lives matter'

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Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg defends Kaepernick, NFL players who kneel during national anthem Journalism is now opinion-based — not news-based Buttiegieg backs NFL players' right to protest during anthem: I 'put my life on the line to defend' that MORE on Thursday addressed controversy over his past use of the phrase “all lives matter,” saying he did not understand its political implications at the time.

Buttigieg used the phrase in his 2015 State of the City address in reference to a controversy over his office’s refusal to turn over tapes allegedly featuring racist remarks by South Bend police officers.

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Figures in the Black Lives Matter movement have said the phrase dismisses concerns specific to African-Americans, a connotation Buttigieg said he was unaware of when he made the speech.

"At that time, I was talking about a lot of issues around racial reconciliation in our community. What I did not understand at that time, was that phrase, just early into mid-2015, was coming to be viewed as a sort of counter-slogan to Black Lives Matter," Buttigieg said after a speech at the National Action Network, a political organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton. "And so, this statement that seems very anodyne and something that nobody could be against, actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us." 

Buttigieg credited the Black Lives Matter movement’s advocacy for helping him become better educated on issues of racial violence and inequality.

“Since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I've stopped using it in that context,” he said. 

The resurfacing of the 2015 speech prompted controversy this week, with Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam, another Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, saying Buttigieg’s comments “lack true understanding of the issue at hand.”

Buttigieg has seen his star rise within the crowded Democratic field in recent weeks, reaching third place in one Iowa poll, behind former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJames Carville: Biden represents 'stability' not 'generational change' Trump's misspelling of Biden's name trends on Twitter Trump says 'I have confidence' after past North Korea missile tests MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJames Carville: Biden represents 'stability' not 'generational change' Ocasio-Cortez, progressives trash 'antisemitic' Politico illustration of Bernie Sanders 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding MORE (I-Vt.).