Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledged he could have handled things differently this week after his lackluster reaction to the Ohio train derailment.
The transportation secretary indicated that he could have communicated better with the leaders and residents of Ohio’s East Palestine during an appearance on Nexstar TV.
Upon being asked what he has to say to people who believe his department has taken too long to address the issue, Buttigieg replied, “Well, to be clear, our department was on the ground within hours helping with the response and the investigation.”
He added, “Again, I respect the separate role of the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board], but we have been on the ground literally from day one to make sure that we’re doing our part to support.”
Buttigieg acknowledged the dissatisfaction seen for his initial lack of response, saying, “I could have spoken out sooner, and I’m making sure that we are focused on the actions that are gonna make a difference.”
Former President Trump was spotted paying East Palestine a visit and reportedly donated free meals along with thousands of water bottles to local residents.
Despite currently not holding a position in the U.S. government, the former president notably visited the town before Buttigieg, who has not yet made a trip.
WATCH: Fmr. Pres. Trump greets residents of East Palestine, Ohio following toxic train derailment
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) February 22, 2023
Buttigieg discussed a potential visit to East Palestine when he joined ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday.
“I am planning to go, and our folks were on the ground from the first hours,” he said. “I do wanna stress that the NTSB needs to be able to do its work independently, but when I go, the focus is gonna be on action.”
The transportation secretary stressed that his East Palestine visit is intended to be serious, rather than a simple photo opportunity.
“When I go, it will be about action on rail safety, like the actions that we are calling on Congress to help us with,” Buttigieg explained. “That we’re calling on industry to take and that we are undertaking ourselves as a department to help make sure that these kinds of things don’t happen in the future.”
He invoked his time serving as mayor of the small Indiana town South Bend, stating that he “dealt with a lot of disasters, natural and human” during his eight-year-long reign over the city.
I had NO IDEA how bad the Ohio train derailment was… Which brings me to the question: WHY didn’t we all know how bad the Ohio train derailment and this subsequent chemical explosion was??
— Xaviaer DuRousseau (@XAVIAERD) February 13, 2023