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 ButtigiegOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — ObamaCare premiums dropping for 2020 | Warren, Buttigieg shift stances on 'Medicare for All' | Drug companies spend big on lobbying Poll: Biden holds 2 point lead over Sanders nationally Saagar Enjeti: Warren, Buttigieg don't stand a chance against Trump 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 SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — ObamaCare premiums dropping for 2020 | Warren, Buttigieg shift stances on 'Medicare for All' | Drug companies spend big on lobbying Mellman: Trumping peace and prosperity Tlaib to join Sanders at campaign rally in Detroit MORE (I-Vt.) and possible 2020 contender, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSupport for impeachment inches up in poll Overnight Defense: Trump's Syria envoy wasn't consulted on withdrawal | McConnell offers resolution urging Trump to rethink Syria | Diplomat says Ukraine aid was tied to political investigations Democrats say they have game changer on impeachment MORE.