Pete Buttigieg, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Tuesday he’s ready to debate President Donald Trump and his allies about family values if they continue to attack his marriage.
Speaking at a town hall event in Nevada, Buttigieg was asked about a series of homophobic remarks made last week by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who claimed on his program the country wasn’t “ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage.” Moderator Erin Burnett noted Limbaugh appeared to defend the remark earlier that day, claiming the president had urged him not to apologize.
“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,” Buttigieg said during the event in Las Vegas just before the next Democratic debate. “So, they want to debate family values? Let’s debate family values. I’m ready.”
The retort brought wild applause from the crowd.
Buttigieg has had strong results in the two states that have voted in the nomination process so far, Iowa and New Hampshire, and has been traveling with his husband, Chasten, throughout the campaign.
Limbaugh made the comments during his program last week, regularly talking about Buttigieg and his husband kissing while on the campaign trail together, alluding without evidence that it had upset unnamed Democratic “grand pooh-bahs.”
They’re sitting there and they’re looking at Mayor Pete — a 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage — and they’re saying, ‘OK. How’s this gonna look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump? What’s gonna happen there?’
(Buttigieg is 38.)
Buttigieg shrugged off the radio host’s remarks at the time, saying he wasn’t going to “take lectures on family values” from the likes of Limbaugh.
″I’m proud of my marriage,” Buttigieg said on Fox News. “We should have a politics of belonging that welcomes everybody. ... I am saddened for what the Republican Party has become if they embrace that kind of homophobic rhetoric.”
Limbaugh has said Trump called him to say that he should “never apologize” for his remarks.
The refrain on Tuesday isn’t new for Buttigieg. Throughout his campaign, he’s lambasted the Trump administration as the “porn star presidency,” pointing to hush money payments involving women who’ve claimed they had affairs with Trump before his presidential campaign.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.