White House takes back slam at Durbin: 'A misunderstanding'
BY LYNN SWEET Washington Bureau Chief October 24, 2013 10:47AM
Sen. Dick Durbin
Updated: October 24, 2013 11:43AM
WASHINGTON–The White House is taking back Thursday a slam leveled at Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) by Press Secretary Jay Carney over an alleged insult to President Barack Obama by a GOP House leader.
A White House official told me “While the quote attributed to a Republican lawmaker in the House GOP meeting with the President is not accurate, there was a miscommunication when the White House read out that meeting to Senate Democrats, and we regret the misunderstanding.”
At issue is a meeting the GOP House Leaders had with Obama on Oct. 10, during the partial federal government shutdown and looming debt ceiling crisis.
Durbin’s Facebook page posted this entry on Sunday: “Many Republicans searching for something to say in defense of the disastrous shutdown strategy will say President Obama just doesn’t try hard enough to communicate with Republicans. But in a ‘negotiation’ meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you.’
“What are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who has just said something so disrespectful.”
On Wednesday, Carney was asked about this at a briefing and said, “I looked into this and spoke with somebody who was in that meeting, and it did not happen,” Carney said.
Asked if anyone from the White House spoke to Durbin about the comments, Carney said, “I don’t know. I don’t — my understanding is that, again, from a participant in the meeting, that that didn’t happen.”
Durbin communications director Max Gleischman told me Durbin “stands by his comments.”
On Thursday morning, I confirmed–as did the Huffington Post–that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told a gathering of Democratic senators that a GOP House leader said in a private meeting with President Barack Obama he could not stand to look at him– the exchange reported Durbin and denied by the White House.
The GOP lawmaker in question is Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). His office is denying that he made the comment.
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