Mike Pence, facing criticism from 2020 Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg over his record on gay rights, says South Bend mayor 'knows better'

Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg "knows better" days after the South Bend, Indiana, mayor made waves by critiquing Pence's record on LGBT equality.

"He said some things that are critical of my Christian faith and about me personally. And he knows better. He knows me," said Pence, who served as governor of Indiana when Buttigieg came out as gay during his reelection campaign for mayor.

The vice president's comments came during an interview with Joe Kernen on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that will air at 6 a.m. ET on Thursday morning.

"But I get it. You know, it's look, again, 19 people running for president on that side in a party that's sliding off to the left. And they're all competing with one another for how much more liberal they are," Pence said.

Pence was responding to comments that Buttigieg, who is expected to officially launch his campaign for president Sunday, made over the weekend during an event hosted by the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

"I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand, that if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me," Buttigieg said. "Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."

Buttigieg has skyrocketed to the front of the Democratic pack since announcing the formation of an exploratory committee in late January. Buttigieg, an Afghanistan war veteran, has said that his marriage to his husband has brought him closer to God.

Pence has faced scrutiny from LGBT activist groups over his opposition to gay marriage and his support, while governor, for a "religious freedom" bill that opponents said targeted gays and lesbians. Business groups including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce had opposed the measure. Pence signed the bill shortly before Buttigieg came out.

The former governor, who President Donald Trump once reportedly joked "wants to hang them all," referring to gay people, said Wednesday that he stood by his view of marriage.

"But that doesn't mean that we're critical of anyone else who has a different point of view," he said.

Pence said that as governor, he "worked very closely with Mayor Pete" and that they "had a great working relationship." He noted that, as governor of Indiana, he implemented the Supreme Court's decision that made gay marriage the law of the land.

When reached for comment on Pence's remarks, a representative for Buttigieg's campaign referred CNBC to the candidate's previous statements.

Buttigieg, apparently responding to similar comments that Pence made in 2015, wrote in a post on Twitter this week that people "will often be polite to you in person, while advancing policies that harm you and your family."

"You will be polite to them in turn, but you need not stand for such harms. Instead, you push back, honestly and emphatically. So it goes, in the public square," Buttigieg wrote.

Read the full exchange:

Mike Pence: Well, look, I worked very closely with Mayor Pete when I was governor of the state of Indiana. We had a great working relationship. And he said some things that are critical of my Christian faith and about me personally, and he knows better. He knows me. But I get. You know, it's — look, they got 19 people running for president on that side —

Joe Kernen: Have you evolved at all —

Pence: — in a party that is sliding off to the left —

Kernen: I agree.

Pence: And they're all competing with one another for how much more liberal they are than the other. So, I get that.

Kernen: But, Mr. Vice President, since the year 2000, have you — the country has evolved, to some extent, I think, on marriage equality, on gay rights. Have you — would you say your views have evolved at all since then?

Pence: Look, the Supreme Court has made their decision.

Kernen: So you accept it as law?

Pence: And when I was governor of Indiana, we fully implemented that decision in the law. But, Joe, I have my Christian values. My family and I have a view of marriage that's informed by our faith. And we stand by that. But that doesn't mean that we're critical of anyone else who has a different point of view.

Watch Joe Kernen's full interview with Vice President Mike Pence:

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