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Candidate Pete Buttigieg: 'almost certain' that the United States has had gay presidents

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/17/2019 Nicholas Wu
Peter Buttigieg wearing a suit and tie © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

WASHINGTON — Mayor Pete Buttigieg's candidacy has fueled speculation about how the American electorate would react to its first gay president. 

But, according to Buttigieg, he would not be the first gay president. 

In an interview with "Axios on HBO" aired on Sunday evening, Buttigieg asserted that it's "almost certain" he would not be the first gay president. 

Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor running for the Democratic nomination, had been asked if Americans might react adversely to his sexual orientation.

He responded: "I'll respond by explaining where I want to lead this country. People will elect the person who will make the best president. And we have had excellent presidents who have been young. We have had excellent presidents who have been liberal. I would imagine we've probably had excellent presidents who were gay – we just didn't know which ones."

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When asked specifically if the United States ever had a gay president, he said, "I mean, statistically, it's almost certain."

He wasn't sure which one, though.

"My gaydar even doesn't work that well in the present," Buttigieg added. 

Some have speculated, though, that Buttigieg would not be the first gay president. 

In a Washington Post column at the end of March, Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, speculated that James Buchanan, who was president from 1857 to 1861, might actually have been the first gay president.

Emanuel argued that Buchanan might have had a relationship with William Rufus King, a politician who served as a senator, ambassador, and Franklin Pierce's vice president briefly before King's death.

King and Buchanan lived together before Buchanan became president, and after the two stopped living together, Buchanan noted in a letter to a friend that he was now "'solitary and alone,' having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them."

Buchanan also added that he would not be able to give "ardent or romantic affection" to a woman if they lived together.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Candidate Pete Buttigieg: 'almost certain' that the United States has had gay presidents

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