Buttigieg responds to accusation of pushing a 'hate hoax' about Pence

Buttigieg responds to accusation of pushing a 'hate hoax' about Pence
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South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg: We 'probably are' on cusp of recession Chris Wallace becomes Trump era's 'equal opportunity inquisitor' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate MORE (D) responded on Monday to a Trump administration official who had accused him of perpetuating a “hate hoax” during a tiff with Vice President Pence.

"I'm not a master fisherman, but I know bait when I see it, and I'm not gonna take it," the 2020 presidential candidate said to applause during a CNN town hall Monday night. 

Buttigieg was responding to comments made by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who accused the mayor last week of using the back-and-forth to boost his presidential bid.

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The remarks came as Buttigieg repeatedly criticized Pence, the former governor of his home state, of promoting anti-LGBTQ policies.

Pence has denied having “a problem with” Buttigieg, saying, “I don’t believe in discrimination against anybody” and telling CNN, “I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith or attacks on the president as he seeks the highest office in the land.”

Buttigieg has pointed to Pence’s support for an Indiana state law that would allow businesses to refuse service based on religious beliefs, which critics said opened the door to allowing discrimination based on sexuality.

"If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade," Buttigieg said at an LGBTQ Victory Fund event in Washington earlier this month. "And that's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you've got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."

Buttigieg has surged in recent polls of the Democratic field, rising from a virtual unknown to the top spots behind fellow candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Bernie Sanders vows to go to 'war with white nationalism and racism' as president Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' MORE (I-Vt.) and possible 2020 contender, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown MORE.