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White House blames 'miscommunication' for Durbin's GOP insult story

October 24, 2013|By Katherine Skiba, Tribune reporter
  • Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), left, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), left, and Senate Majority Leader Harry… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- The White House has denied as untrue a claim by the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat that an unnamed House Republican leader insulted President Obama in a recent meeting, calling it the result of a “miscommunication” between the White House and Senate Democrats.

The controversy began Sunday when Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) posted the claim on Facebook.

“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,” he wrote. “But in a 'negotiation' meeting with the president, one GOP House leader told the president: 'I cannot even stand to look at you.'”

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday he looked into Durbin’s story and “it did not happen.” But Durbin’s office stood by his account, and did not take down his Facebook post.

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On Thursday, a White House official offered further detail in a brief statement.

"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 official said.

The statement did not say which White House official conducted the briefing with Senate Democrats.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called on Durbin to immediately retract the “reckless allegation” and apologize. But a Durbin spokesman said the senator was standing by his statement.

At the National Republican Senatorial Committee, spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said Durbin “is at the crux of the partisan divide” in Washington. “How can voters trust anything this man says? Durbin should either reveal his 'source' or retract his partisan attack immediately and apologize. His credibility is waning.”

Durbin, 68, is up for reelection next year.

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Twitter: @KatherineSkiba

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