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James Hoffa stands by indelicate comments; White House steps back

September 06, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times
  • White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in response to a question from a reporter, said "Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in response to a question from a… (Michael Reynolds / European…)

Teamsters President James Hoffa on Tuesday defended his comments attacking the “tea party” movement even as the White House tried to distance itself from the political dispute.

On Labor Day, Hoffa used fiery language to introduce President Obama at a pro-union rally in Detroit. Hoffa said Obama wanted jobs and needed political help in getting his program passed.

"Everybody here's got to vote," Hoffa said. "If we go back and keep the eye on the prize, let's take these sons of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong!"

Hoffa’s language was immediately condemned by tea party representatives, who called on Obama and other Democrats to denounce the union leader.  

In his televised briefing on Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney tried to put the dispute behind him and stay focused on Obama’s forthcoming speech to Congress on economic issues.

“Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself, he speaks for the labor movement, AFL-CIO,” Carney said, in response to a reporter’s question. “The president speaks for himself. I speak for the president.

“What the president was glad to do yesterday was have the opportunity to present his views on the importance of working Americans and on the importance of taking measures to help working Americans to create jobs and grow the economy,” Carney said.

In an emailed statement, Hoffa refused to step away from his comments.

“We didn’t start this war — the right wing did,” Hoffa said. “My comments on Labor Day in Detroit echo the anger and frustration of American workers who are under attack by corporate-funded politicians who want to destroy the middle class,” Hoffa said. “We’re tired of seeing good-paying jobs shipped overseas. This fight is about the economy, it’s about jobs and it’s about rebuilding America. As I said yesterday in Detroit, we all have to vote in order to take these anti-worker politicians out of office.”

“We’re fighting back. That’s what Teamsters do — we stand up for what is right,” Hoffa said. “I will never apologize for standing up for my fellow Teamsters and all American workers.”

Hoffa’s comments have gone viral with the help of conservative media outlets, upset about the obscenity as the sentiment.

The introduction was attacked by the Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer, who said it was part of a pattern of incivility by Democrats. She noted that Democrats frequently criticize the tea party when “some crackpot” displays “errant behavior or rhetoric” so it is only fair that Obama and others be held to the same standard over Hoffa’s comments.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

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