(CNN) - South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticized the Trump administration for missing "the point" after the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director made tweaks to the famous poem on the State of Liberty and said it was "referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies."
In an interview with CNN, Buttigieg pushed back on Ken Cuccinelli's comments
"The whole meaning of the immigrant experience in America is that America grows when we welcome immigrants, and many of the very people who came through in prior generations were characterized as unwanted, the way they talked about Italians, the way they talked about Irish people, exactly the way they're talking about people from Mexico and Central America today," the 2020 Democratic candidate told CNN.
"But you know, the idea of, 'Give me your tired, your poor,' that it only applies to some people is a pretty bad take on poetry from the acting director, and completely misses the point, which is that this is something that not only makes those who come to our shores better off, it is how our country grows, especially in the interior of our country."
On Tuesday night, CNN's Erin Burnett asked Cuccinelli about his changes to the poem by Emma Lazarus, which he made during an interview with NPR. Cuccinelli grew combative in response to Burnett's questions.
"I was answering a question. I wasn't writing poetry, Erin. Don't change the facts. You're twisting this like everybody else on the left has done all day today," Cuccinelli said on "Erin Burnett OutFront."
He added later: "Of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies, where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class, and it was written one year after the first federal public charge rule was written."
Buttigieg made his comments about Cuccinelli during a campaign swing through southeast Iowa to promote his new economic plan for rural America, where he'll stop at six Iowa counties that voted for former President Barack Obama in 2012 and President Donald Trump in 2016.
"I don't think a lot of people who voted for Obama and then voted for Trump are deeply, personally loyal to President Trump and think he's a wonderful human being," Buttigieg said. "I think they held their nose and voted to burn the house down, and voters like that now more than anything else, just want know how their lives are going to be different depending on what we do moving forward."
During the interview, Buttigieg also reacted to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaling that he would prioritize background check legislation and "red flag" laws, saying, "Let's just get it done."
"There is no earthly reason why the vast majority of Americans can want something like this yesterday and the (Senate continues) to fail to do it," he said.
"We need solutions like an actual action plan that's going save lives," Buttigieg said. "That's what Americans want. It's what the country expects. And we're going to find out really quickly whether there's any seriousness about the willingness to deliver or whether it's just more talk like we're used to from Mitch McConnell."