The White House said Thursday that it contributed to a “misunderstanding” that led the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat to accuse a “House GOP leader” of telling President Barack Obama that he “cannot even stand to look at” him.
Durbin claimed in a weekend Facebook post that a House GOP leader told President Barack Obama that the leader “cannot even stand to look at” him during a recent negotiation over the government shutdown and raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
Both the White House and House Republican leadership refuted the quote after it gained traction on Wednesday. On Thursday, a White House official said that there was a “miscommunication” when the White House provided a readout of the meeting to Senate Democrats.
“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,” the White House official said in a statement.
Durbin’s Facebook post began making waves Tuesday evening. On Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Jay Carney flatly denied that the exchange happened. House Republicans, too, were baffled.
“The Speaker certainly didn’t say that, and doesn’t recall anyone else doing so,” Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, said in an email Wednesday morning.
Brendan Buck, also a Boehner spokesman, called on Durbin to apologise after Carney’s comments.
“Senator Durbin’s accusation is a serious one, and it appears to have been invented out of thin air,” Buck said. “The senator should disclose who told him this account of events, retract his reckless allegation immediately, and apologise.”
Buck reiterated that on Thursday afternoon.
“At this point, we just hope Senator Durbin will do the right thing,” Buck said.
Durbin didn’t provide any specifics on the conversation, or identify the member in question. Obama met with House Republicans, Senate Republicans, House Democrats, and House Republicans separately during the shutdown on multiple occasions. A Durbin spokesman did say that the senator “stood by” his remarks Wednesday night.
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