POLITICS
11/21/2019 09:00 EST | Updated 11/21/2019 10:06 EST

Van Jones: Pete Buttigieg 'Falls Off A Cliff' On Black Issues

The CNN host called Buttigieg "a great candidate," but said he doesn't yet "have the touch" on racial matters.

CNN’s Van Jones criticized the way Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg talks about racial issues following Wednesday’s televised debate, saying the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, “falls off a cliff” around “Black stuff.”

Jones said during post-debate analysis on “Anderson Cooper 360˚” that Buttigieg — who recent polls suggest is struggling to connect with Black voters ― excelled when discussing themes he was well versed on. But Jones said the 2020 hopeful left him feeling tense when the topic moved to race.

“You watch Pete in this debate. They brought up the issues around farm subsidies. He lights up. He was unbelievable,” said Jones. “He was great. He was confident. You just had the sense that this guy has thought about this. He’s talked to 100,000 people who are all farmers. He knows what they need. He’s ready for business.”

But when “the issues around Black stuff comes up, it’s more studied,” Jones noted. “It’s more prepared. It’s more careful. It feels like he feels he’s on some thin ice and I just don’t understand why.”

Jones said he understood why Buttigieg attempted during the debate and on the campaign trail to liken his struggles as a gay man to those faced by Black Americans. But Jones argued Buttigieg “doesn’t do it right.”

“Because then you start feeling kind of tense when he says it,” Jones explained. “He doesn’t have the touch. He needs to get the touch. He may get the touch. The reality is he’s a great candidate. He’s growing. To your point, he’s growing in front of our very eyes. But he falls off a cliff when he hits these racial issues. He just does.”

CNN political analyst Nia-Malika Henderson later suggested there was “something sort of more subtle that maybe Black people can pick up on that other people can’t.”

Former Vice President Joe “Biden seems like he’s comfortable around Black people, right?” Henderson asked. “And Pete Buttigieg doesn’t seem like he’s spent much time around Black people. And I don’t know how you get over that. I don’t know why he hasn’t really spent much time around Black people.”

“I don’t think that’s something you can sort of make up with a Douglass Plan or, you know, going to Morehouse and taking pictures with a bunch of Morehouse students,” she added. “So, I don’t know. And there’s obviously low name ID and maybe there’s not-the-electable thing. But I think to your point, he just doesn’t seem comfortable talking about these issues.” 

Check out the full interview here: