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Pete Buttigieg told "Axios on HBO" that "we've probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn't know which ones."

Why it matters: Buttigieg, who is rising in polls and would be the first openly gay nominee of either party, talks easily about his sexual orientation when asked. This comment is a new window into his thinking.

Transcript

"Axios on HBO:" "Republicans claimed that John Kerry was a traitor in Vietnam. That Barack Obama was a Muslim. If you were to win the nomination, they'll say you're too young, too liberal, too gay to be commander-in-chief. You are young. You are a liberal. You are gay. How will you respond?"

Pete Buttigieg: "I'll respond by explaining where I want to lead this country. People will elect the person who will make the best president. And we have had excellent presidents who have been young. We have had excellent presidents who have been liberal. I would imagine we've probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn't know which ones."

"Axios on HBO:" "You believe that we've had a gay commander-in-chief?"

Pete Buttigieg: "I mean, statistically, it's almost certain."

"Axios on HBO:" "In your reading of history, do you believe you know who they were?"

Pete Buttigieg: "My gaydar even doesn't work that well in the present, let alone retroactively. But one can only assume that's the case."

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Go deeper

The Biden climate doctrine emerges at summit

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Biden's climate summit is highlighting a White House approach that blends diplomacy, executive power, salesmanship and a few threats too.

  • Here are a few pillars of the emerging Biden doctrine.

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.