James Hoffa, the Teamster’s President, has refused to apologize for inflammatory remarks he made about the Tea Party and Republicans during a Labor Day rally in Detroit.
Hoffa (son of union/mobster legend Jimmy Hoffa) ignited a ferocious controversy when he referred to the GOP as “sons of b_tches” and implored President Barack Obama to “take them out.”
Hoffa made the remarks ahead of Obama’s appearance on stage.
Tea Party leaders have denounced Hoffa’s incendiary language and demanded that Obama rebuke the union chief. Prominent Republicans Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann have also condemned Hoffa’s visceral words.
However, the White House (perhaps careful not to offend the labor vote that Obama desperately needs to be re-elected next year) has decided not to comment on the flap.
This refusal to comment led to a wildly entertaining exchange between White House press secretary Jay Carney and Jake Tapper, a reporter for ABC News.
Tapper made a reference to Obama’s statements in January calling for a more civil discourse in politics following the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords.
After quoting Obama’s own words following the Tucson tragedy, Tapper asked Carney: “Did he [Obama] mean that?”
To which, Carney snippily replied: “Of course he did.” Tapper then demanded to know how Hoffa’s remarks fit into this new call for verbal decorum.
Carney began to explain that Obama did not use the language attributed to Hoffa, but Tapper cut him off, asserting that the words were uttered during an event for the president.
Carney then delivered a wordy, meandering, monologue that basically said nothing, and only served to raise Tapper’s fury.
“Some of us [who] covered the campaign… recall a time when somebody made some harsh comments about then-Senator Obama during the introduction at a [John] McCain rally, and the Obama campaign was offended, and expected an apology, Senator McCain came out and did so.” Tapper defiantly declared.
Carney again responded with a bland, but lengthy no-comment that sought to absolve Obama of any blame in the fiasco. (Carney was, of course, merely doing his job of saying as little of value as possible).
But Tapper, much to his credit, simply wouldn’t let up – he even suggested that by not rebuking Hoffa, Obama was unwittingly saying it was open season for the 2012 presidential campaign.
“So the precedent you’re setting right now for the 2012 election is, the Republican candidates are the ones to pay attention to,” Tapper said.
“Those who introduce them at rallies, their surrogates, we don’t have to pay attention to anything that they say.”
Carney steadfastly refused to get further drawn into the messy debate.
Meanwhile, Hoffa himself refused to retract his comments.
In a statement, he said: “We didn’t start this war – the right wing did. We’re fighting back. That’s what Teamsters do – we stand up for what is right. I will never apologize for standing up for my fellow Teamsters and all American workers.”
Putting the matter of Hoffa’s choice of words aside for the moment, I must say I am greatly impressed by Jake Tapper’s relentless interrogation of the hapless Carney. Tapper raised some extremely valid points, resulting in Carney just faltering. It was like a boxing match where one fighter keeps landing solid jabs and his opponent just wants to exit the ring.
I have long felt that mainstream media (excluding right-wing Fox News) were too easy on Obama and gave him too much benefit of the doubt.
Tapper has boldly disproved that misconception.
Now, if Obama wants to claim the ‘high road’ in political discourse he needs to rebuke Hoffa and apologize for not having already done so.