Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg admitted judgment errors this week on his department's tepid response to the Ohio train derailment.
During a recent Nexstar TV interview, Buttigieg acknowledged the DOT could have established more efficient communication with the leaders and residents of East Palestine, a tiny village in southeastern Ohio.
"To be clear, our department was on the ground within hours helping with the response and the investigation," Buttigieg reportedly told Nexstar Washington correspondent Reshad Hudson. "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 then added: "I could have spoken out sooner; and I'm making sure that we are focused on the actions that are gonna make a difference."
In a separate TV interview, however, Buttigieg attempted to justify the Biden administration's secondary role in handling the train incident, which later evolved into a toxic chemical spill and massive chemical explosion.
On Tuesday, Buttigieg told ABC's "Good Morning America" about a likely visit to East Palestine.
"I am planning to go, and our folks were on the ground from the first hours," said Buttigieg. "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 reiterated his East Palestine visit wouldn't be a standard photo opportunity — which could be construed as a potential jab at former President Donald Trump, who's planning to visit the Ohio village this week.
If so, Buttigieg could run the risk of further alienating a sector of Ohio voters who largely supported Trump in the previous two presidential elections.
"When I go, it will be about action on rail safety, like the actions that we are calling on Congress to help us with," said Buttigieg. "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."
Buttigieg then leaned on his days as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana to make a weather or climate-related point.
"Look I was mayor of my hometown for eight years. We dealt with a lot of disasters, natural and human," added Buttigieg, currently a member of President Joe Biden's Cabinet.
Neither Buttigieg nor Biden have yet to visit East Palestine — more than two weeks after the derailment and explosion, which might have also brought long-term damage to fish and wildlife in the region, along with drinking water for area citizens.
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