Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed in an interview that aired Sunday that he will not be the first gay president if he wins election in 2020.
What did Buttigieg say?
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor explained in an interview with "Axios on HBO" that opponents cannot use his age, political views, or sexual choices against him because the categories that define him — young, liberal, and gay — are not qualities new to the White House.
"If you were to win the nomination, they'll say you're too young, too liberal, too gay to be commander-in-chief," interviewer Mike Allen said. "You are young. You are a liberal. You are gay. How will you respond?"
Buttigieg said he would respond to such opponents by explaining how he wants to lead the country because "people will elect the person who will make the best president."
"We have had excellent presidents who have been young. We have had excellent presidents who have been liberal," Buttigieg said. "I would imagine we've probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn't know which ones."
"You believe that we've had a gay commander-in-chief?" Allen shot back.
"I mean, statistically, it's almost certain," Buttigieg claimed.
When asked to identify which presidents he believes were gay, Buttigieg deferred with a joke.
"My gaydar even doesn't work that well in the present, let alone retroactively," he quipped. "But one can only assume that's the case."
Mayor Pete Buttigieg: "Statistically it's almost certain" there's been a gay U.S. presidentwww.youtube.com
Who could Buttigieg be referring to?
While Buttigieg's statistical claims are rooted in his belief that people are born into their sexuality — a widely disputed idea — some scholars debate the sexuality of previous presidents.
Two presidents specifically — Abraham Lincoln and James Buchanan — have had their sexuality questioned by American historians.
Buchanan, the only U.S. president to remain a bachelor his entire life, had a very close relationship with an Alabama senator, whom historians claim could have been a possible lover.
Meanwhile, some historians also suspect that Lincoln had gay relationships with at least two men. These rumors were cemented by poet Carl Sandburg, who in a 1926 biography of the 16th president, described Lincoln's relationship with a man named Joshua Speed as "a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets," a common reference to homosexuality at the time.