Buttigieg -- who came out as gay in 2015 and married his husband, Chasten, in 2018 -- was asked during his CNN town hall about conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh telling his listeners that American voters are "still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president." Trump, who initially responded to the comments by saying he was not uncomfortable with a gay president, told Limbaugh to "never apologize" for his comments about Buttigieg, the radio host said Tuesday.
"The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values," Buttigieg said before pausing for applause.
Then the Democratic candidate went after the President directly: "I mean, I'm sorry but one thing about my marriage is it's never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse, with him or her."
He added: "So, if they want to debate family values, let's debate family values, I'm ready."
Buttigieg was referring to $130,000 in payments arranged by Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Stephanie Clifford, a porn star known as Stormy Daniels who says she and Trump had an affair in 2006 after Trump married his wife, Melania. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels, but admitted in 2018 that he knew of the payments to her "later on."
Buttigieg is frequently asked about his marriage on the campaign trail, with voters wondering how he thinks being gay will affect his ability to win over American voters who may be uncomfortable with his identity.
Buttigieg, shortly after Limbaugh's comments, was asked in Sparks, Nevada, this weekend how he would plan to counter "homophobic attacks."
"This one got a little bit fun this last few days. Good ol' Rush Limbaugh was saying things about us," he said. "I'm pretty good at holding my tongue. But it is tempting to point out some differences between my understanding of family values and those of this President and his supporters like Rush Limbaugh."
He added: "Let me tell you this, this President will find something to attack you on, and if you can't find something, he'll make something up."
But even some loyal Democrats considering supporting Buttigieg wonder publicly about how Buttigieg's identity will impact him with some voters.
"I like Pete, I like his issues," said Willie Johnson, a 62-year-old member of Nevada's powerful Culinary Union, told CNN over the weekend. "I don't know if America is ready for him, but I didn't think they were ready for Obama either and they did it."