Rising Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg now regrets saying “All Lives Matter” in a 2015 speech addressing two local police controversies in South Bend, Indiana.

“What I did not understand at that time was that that phrase just early, into mid-, especially 2015 was coming to be viewed as a sort of counter slogan to Black Lives Matter,” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, told reporters at the National Action Network convention in New York, an annual gathering of black voters hosted by Al Sharpton.


A dozen 2020 presidential candidates were in attendance to address NAN and reach out to black voters -- a crucial bloc for Democrats that saw a record drop in turnout in 2016.

“And so this statement that seems anodyne and something no one could be against actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us, which is what we needed to hear because unfortunately, it was not obvious to everybody that black lives were being valued the same,” he said.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 04: Democratic presidential hopeful South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to the media at the National Action Network's annual convention on April 4, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A CNBC report on Wednesday first highlighted Buttigieg’s use of “All Lives Matter” in a 2015 State of the City Address he delivered to his constituents in South Bend referencing two racial controversies surrounding the city’s police officers.

“There is no contradiction between respecting the risks that police officers take every day in order to protect this community, and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses,” Buttigieg said in his speech four years ago. “We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.”


Some critics of “Black Lives Matter” have used “All Lives Matter” as a counter slogan to the movement.

“It’s the reason why, since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I’ve stopped using it in that context,” Buttigieg said in response to a question from Fox News on whether he thought saying “All Lives Matter” was a mistake.

Buttigieg’s use of the term could be seen as a potential vulnerability for a white man trying to win over minority voters while distinguishing himself among the most diverse crowd of Democratic presidential candidates ever assembled.

The 37-year-old veteran, and openly gay mayor, spoke at the conference Thursday about his plans to help the black community by improving black homeownership, entrepreneurship, education and health care, and reforming the criminal justice system.

“It should enhance, not diminish, the value of a good police department, when we assert what should go without saying, but in these times must be said clearly and again and again: that black lives matter,” Buttigieg said to applause, as Sharpton sat next to him.