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Intercept: Buttigieg Campaign Falsely Claimed Endorsements From Black South Carolina Leaders

Buttigieg’s campaign falsified endorsements of prominent black South Carolinians and used Kenyan stock photos as promotional material for his Douglass Plan.


On October 24, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg released an op-ed claiming more than 400 South Carolinians have endorsed his “Douglass Plan for Black America.” It turns out that the three black politicians listed at the top of his press release never endorsed the plan and 40 percent of the endorsement names listed are of white people.

According to The Intercept, Buttigieg sent out a press release with the op-ed, citing three prominent South Carolinians including: Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Devine, Baptist pastor and state Rep. Ivory Thigpen, and Johnnie Cordero, chair of the South Carolina Black Caucus.

“There is one presidential candidate who has proven to have intentional policies designed to make a difference in the Black experience, and that’s Pete Buttigieg. We are over 400 South Carolinians, including business owners, pastors, community leaders, and students. Together, we endorse his Douglass Plan for Black America, the most comprehensive roadmap for tackling systemic racism offered by a 2020 presidential candidate,” the press release read.

But The Intercept found none of these politicians endorsed Buttigieg or his plan, which includes financial reparations for slavery more than a century after the fact and decriminalizing drugs.

Devine told The Intercept she has yet to endorse a presidential candidate and did not intend her support of Buttigieg’s plan to be read as an endorsement for his candidacy at large.

“Clearly from the number of calls I received about my endorsement, I think the way they put it out there wasn’t clear, that it was an endorsement of the plan, and that may have been intentionally vague. I’m political, I know how that works,” Devine said.

Thigpen says he told the Buttigieg campaign he was a strong Bernie Sanders supporter and was not interested in endorsing Buttigieg or the Douglass plan.

“How it was rolled out was not an accurate representation of where I stand. I didn’t know about its rolling out. Somebody brought it to my attention, and it was alarming to me, because even though I had had conversations with the campaign, it was clear to me, or at least I thought I made it clear to them, that I was a strong Bernie Sanders supporter — actually co-chair of the state, and I was not seeking to endorse their candidate or the plan,” Thigpen told The Intercept.

Johnnie Cordero, the third politician listed in the press release, is no longer listed as a supporter. Cordero told The Intercept he never endorsed the plan or Buttigieg.

These politicians were listed as supporters because Buttigieg’s campaign sent out an email telling politicians they needed to opt out if they did not want their name on the endorsement list. Thus people’s names ended up on the endorsement list, even if they had never explicitly endorsed Buttigieg or his plan.

The email sent out to prominent South Carolinian politicians reads as follows:

Good afternoon —

Thank you for your willingness to publicly support Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan, the boldest plan in the 2020 candidate field to combat the effects of systemic racism and make comprehensive investments in Black communities.

Below is an op-ed that will run in the Carolina Panorama this week announcing the support of over 400 Black South Carolinians for the plan. Given that you have signed on as an endorser, you will be included in the list of endorsements attached to the opinion piece. If you do not want your name included, please let us know by 4pm ET today.

Not only did Buttigieg’s campaign mess up the endorsement, they also used stock photos of Kenyans in their promotional material for the Douglass plan.

Buttigieg’s campaign has yet to make a statement on the false endorsements and stock photos. The mainstream media is currently far more focused on Buttigieg’s first place numbers in Iowa.

The media has also ignored other potential scandals in Buttigieg’s political history, including his firing of South Bend’s first black police chief and his curiously missing campaign records.

The Buttigieg campaign responded with the following message:

Our campaign is working to build a multi-racial coalition, and we sought and received input from numerous Black policy experts and advisers to create a comprehensive plan to dismantle systemic racism: the Douglass Plan. We asked a number of Black South Carolinians, as well as South Carolinians from many backgrounds, to support the Douglass Plan, and we are proud and grateful that hundreds agreed to do so.

In the HBCU Times op-ed and in communications with the press, we’ve been clear that not every supporter of the plan is Black, and have never claimed otherwise in any public communication. We never gave the impression publicly that these people were endorsing Pete, only that they supported the plan. After they indicated their support, we reached out to people multiple times giving them the opportunity to review the language of the op-ed and the option to opt-out. We did hear from people who weren’t comfortable being listed and we removed them.

Pete will continue to talk about the Douglass Plan wherever he goes, regardless of the audience, as there are many communities of Americans committed to eradicating racial inequity.