OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
A senior Biden administration official is pushing back on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg after he appeared to blame former President Donald Trump for the derailment of a train in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month that led to a massive environmental disaster.
The fact-check of sorts by an official with the National Transportation Safety Board came after Buttigieg responded to Trump’s visit to the small community to deliver water and other supplies and to show his support for the people affected by the spillage of highly toxic chemicals.
“One thing he can do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch. I heard him say he had nothing to do with it, even though it was in his administration. So, if he had nothing to do with it and they did it in his administration against his will, maybe he can come out and say that he supports us moving in a different direction,” Buttigieg said.
“We’re not afraid to own our policies when it comes to raising the bar on regulation. I’ve got to think that him indicating that this is something that everybody, no matter how much you disagree on politics and presidential campaigns, can get behind — higher fines, tougher regulations on safety, Congress untying our hands on breaking rules, all the other things that go with that — that would be a nice thing for him to do,” Buttigieg continued.
In a subsequent interview with far-left MSNBC host Joy Reid, the transportation chief continued to point fingers at Trump.
“You know, the sort of theatrics of Donald Trump being in Palestine were odd, but this is a community that voted overwhelmingly for him. The county that Palestine is in voted 71/29 for Donald Trump,” she said as she broached the topic during one segment of the interview.
“I want you to reflect on the irony. In 2016, it was 68/26. This is a Trump county. What do you make of the fact he went there despite the fact the regulations he rolled back were partly responsible for this tragedy?” she asked.
“It was definitely an ironic thing to do. You take down regulations, you water down regulations, you weaken the power of the administration to deal with freight railroad companies, and then you show up wanting to be a great friend of the people who have been impacted by a rail disaster,” Buttigieg responded.
“You know, this is somebody who as far as I know never went to a derailment site when one of those happens on his watch. And there were thousands. Even ones with fatalities. Never even sent his Transportation Secretary to go. Now that it’s campaign season, I guess things are different. We were there to work. We were there to get things done,” Buttigieg added.
But NTSB chairwoman Jennifer Homendy begged to differ, telling a press conference this week that the onus is on the rail company, Norfolk Southern, not “politics” or a rule regarding certain brakes that was loosened during Trump’s term.
“The wheel bearing failed on car number 23. So even with ECP brakes, the derailment would have occurred. Enough with the politics on this. Enough with the politics. I don’t understand why this has gotten so political,” she said. “This is a community that is suffering. This is not about politics. This is about addressing their needs, their concerns. That’s what this should be about. What I care about is caring for them. What I care about is figuring out how this happened.
“And what I care about and what the NTSB cares about is getting to what would prevent this from reoccurring,” she continued. “This is about addressing their needs and their concerns. That’s what this should be about. So I don’t care about the politics. What I care about is figuring out how this happened.”
She went on to say: “I can tell you this much: This was 100% preventable. We call things accidents. There is no accident. Every single event that we investigate is preventable. Know that the NTSB has one goal, and that is safety and ensuring that this never happens again. There are often a lot of considerations in what goes into what is preventable. There is usually far more than one thing.”