A video showing Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg departing the White House on a bike was misrepresented by conservative commentators online, with some claiming he “staged” the ride. There’s no evidence for that claim, and the Department of Transportation said he traveled from the department to the White House — a three-mile trip — and back on bike.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s official cabinet Twitter account recently highlighted a video of him mounting a bike in a business suit. Retweeting the video posted by a CNN producer, Buttigieg wrote: “Great way to get around!”
But critics of Buttigieg are using the same footage to make false and misleading claims, primarily suggesting that Buttigieg was actually dropped off by motor vehicle and was staging the bike ride.
On April 2, Dinesh D’Souza, a popular conservative personality, tweeted a link to a copy of the video he uploaded to Rumble with the false headline: “Buttigieg CAUGHT Faking Green Lifestyle, Rides Bike to Work After Car Drops Him Off Near Destination.” A YouTube post of the video the same day, viewed more than 420,000 times, declared: “Pete Buttigieg fakes riding a bike to work.”
Other websites used similar erroneous takeaways. A story on the website the Federalist, shared more than 11,000 times on Facebook, was headlined: “Clown Show: Pete Buttigieg ‘Bikes’ To Work After SUVs Drive Him Part Of The Way.”
And conservative personality Charlie Kirk posted the video on Rumble and YouTube, using the false headline: “CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Buttigieg Stages Fake Bike Ride To Work.” Both links were each shared on Facebook more than 5,000 times.
All of those posts base the claim on the video taken by CNN producer DJ Judd — the same one Buttigieg himself shared. But Judd did not suggest the video showed Buttigieg staging a bike ride, and there’s no evidence that he did.
Judd tweeted the video on April 1, saying, “Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg biked to the White House for today’s Cabinet Meeting, it would appear.”
Asked about the video, the Department of Transportation told us in an email statement: “He rode his bike from DOT to the White House cabinet meeting and he rode his bike back to DOT after the meeting.”
A longer version of CNN’s video does show the bike was attached to the SUV before Buttigieg began his ride; it was posted by WFMZ-TV 69 and headlined: “DC: BUTTIGIEG DEPARTS CABINET MTG ON A BIKE.” In other words, the video shows Buttigieg retrieving his bike from the SUV at the conclusion of the meeting. The SUV appears to be Buttigieg’s security detail; as Buttigieg begins to ride at the end of the video, the car can be seen following him.
In an interview on ABC’s “The View” on April 9, Buttigieg addressed the claims himself, saying that he rode his bike to the White House. “When we were in the cabinet meeting, they loaded the bike onto the vehicle so we could drive back if we ran out of time, but actually we had enough time to ride back, too,” he explained.
Buttigieg said he rides his bike to work some days, but acknowledged that “it doesn’t do much for my carbon footprint because I have to have a security detail.” He said he does it regardless, for exercise and as “a transportation secretary who is trying to encourage people to bike to work and make it easier and safer for people to do it.”
Biden’s cabinet meeting began at 1:15 p.m. Judd’s video was tweeted at 4:07 p.m. The distance from the department’s headquarters in Southeast Washington to the White House in the Northwest is about 3 miles.
Katie Barlow, of the website SCOTUS Blog, replied to Judd’s tweet with a short clip of her own showing what she said was Buttigieg exiting the White House grounds on his bike.
Update, April 9: We updated this story to add Buttigieg’s comments addressing the claims.
Barlow, Katie (@KatieLeeBarlow). “And biked out of the complex.” Twitter. 1 Apr 2021.
Buttigieg, Pete (@SecretaryPete). “Great way to get around!” Twitter. 1 Apr 2021.
Buttigieg, Pete (@SecretaryPete). “Good bike! Took some explaining to the staff and detail why I needed to swing by a Pizza Hut parking lot in Petworth on the way home, but we got there.” Twitter. 11 Mar 2021.
“DC: BUTTIGIEG DEPARTS CABINET MTG ON A BIKE.” WFMZ-TV 69. 1 Apr 2021.
“Joe Biden – President’s Public Schedule.” Factba.se. Accessed 6 Apr 2021.
Judd, DJ (@DJJudd). “Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg biked to the White House for today’s Cabinet Meeting, it would appear.” Twitter. 1 Apr 2021.
Laris, Michael. “Buttigieg to quarantine for 14 days after security agent tests positive for coronavirus.” Washington Post. 8 Feb 2021.
Stratford, Michael (@mstratford). “Cabinet secretaries @bikeshare home from work, too. A person who appears to be @SecretaryPete rolling through Navy Yard just now.” Twitter. 25 Feb 2021.
Ulloah, Jazmine. “Our neighbor sells used bikes, and last week he met a customer at a Petworth Pizza Hut. He said he was waiting for the person when a couple of black government SUVs pulled up and then a couple more — and then, out pops Pete Buttigieg.” Twitter. 11 Mar 2021.
U.S. Department of Transportation. Email statement to FactCheck.org. 6 Apr 2021.