Pete Buttigieg takes on first hecklers of his 2020 campaign

By Emily Tillett, Robert Legare

/ CBS News

Can Pete Buttigieg make his momentum last?

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who formally announced his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, encountered some of his first hecklers of the campaign on Tuesday. During a two-day swing through Iowa, Buttigieg was interrupted by protesters in the audience at two separate events with Iowa Democrats.

The protesters at each stop were subsequently removed by members of security present. At a town hall event in Fort Dodge, Iowa, a man interrupted the mayor and began shouting at the openly gay Buttigieg, claiming he was betraying his baptism. The crowd promptly booed the man, who was escorted out, according to Associated Press reporter Alexandra Jaffe.

Buttigieg, an Episcopalian who speaks often about his faith, remained relatively silent during the encounter and proceeded to continue his speech, telling the audience, "Coffee after church gets a little rowdy sometimes."

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He added: "We're so dug-in, in such passionate ways, and I respect that, too. That gentleman believes that what he is doing is in line with the will of the Creator. I'd do it differently. We ought to be able to do it differently."

Later, speaking at a rally in Des Moines, Buttigieg was once again interrupted by protesters in the audience. According to Reuters reporter James Oliphant on Twitter, one of the protestors was shouting "Sodom and Gomorrah," a biblical reference to the mayor's homosexuality. That protester was quickly drowned out by chants of "Pete! Pete! Pete!"

Attendees cheer as 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., April 16, 2019. Elijah Nouvelage / REUTERS

"The good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you," Buttigieg responded, to a loud and positive response from the crowd.

Buttigieg has not been shy about addressing his sexuality on the campaign trail. He recently explained to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow why it took him so long to come out as gay, recalling how he finally came to terms with his sexuality after coming home from being deployed to Afghanistan, shortly after being elected South Bend's mayor at age 33.

"It took me plenty of time to come out to myself," Buttigieg explained.

Buttigieg described the act of coming out as fighting a "war" inside one's self.

"You know, there`s this war that breaks out, I think, inside a lot of people when they realize that they might be something they are afraid of. And it took me a very long time to resolve that. I did make sure as a kind of final way of coming out to myself to come out to at least a couple of people in my life before I took office because I knew that I didn't want that psychological pressure, of at least not being out to somebody," he added.

Despite Tuesday's outbursts, Buttigieg took time to field some questions from the audience at the events, including one curious voter who asked the Democrat what song best describes his life.

Buttigieg's answer? Everlast's 1998 hit "What It's Like." Buttigieg explained that the song didn't explicitly describe his life, but describes "the way we should come to politics."

First published on April 17, 2019 / 10:55 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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