White House admits it was behind rumor that GOP leader told Obama ‘I cannot even stand to look at you’ during tense government shutdown meeting

By  David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor

PUBLISHED: 09:28 EST, 24  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 15:11 EST, 24 October 2013

Senator Dick Durbin claimed that a senior Republican House member blew up at President Obama during tense government-shutdown talks 

Senator Dick Durbin claimed that a senior Republican  House member blew up at President Obama during tense government-shutdown  talks

The White House admitted Thursday that it was  the source of a phony quote attributed to a top House Republican, who had  allegedly told President Obama during a tense Oct. 10 meeting that ‘I cannot  even stand to look at you.’

Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate Majority  Whip,  claimed in a Facebook post on Sunday that an unnamed GOP lawmaker had delivered  the verbal slap in Obama’s face, but everyone involved with the story now says  it never happened.

Eighteen Republicans from Congress attended  that meeting with the president during a 16-day partial shutdown  of the federal  government, with the GOP representatives trying to  negotiate a solution and  Obama insisting that he wouldn’t bargain unless the government was reopened  first.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney  acknowledged Thursday that ‘there was a miscommunication when we read out that  meeting to Senate Democrats and we regret that misunderstanding.’

A ‘read out’ is a brief summary of a meeting  provided to journalists or political allies. While reporters typically get  sanitized versions, read outs between politicians of the same political party  are often more detailed and include some participants’ direct quotes.

The Huffington Post reported Thursday that Senate  Majority Leader Harry Reid relayed portions of the read out to colleagues during  a caucus meeting.

Senate Democrats told the news outlet that  White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors went further, naming Texas  Republican Rep. Pete Sessions as the lawmaker who had allegedly insulted  President Obama.

Durbin ran with it, perhaps not knowing the  episode never occurred.

Never said it: GOP Rep. Pete Sessions was blamed for telling President Obama that he couldn't stand the sight of him, but now Democrats are walking that claim back and admitting that the rumor began in the White House 

Never said it: GOP Rep. Pete Sessions was blamed for  telling President Obama that he couldn’t stand the sight of him, but now  Democrats are walking that claim back and admitting that the rumor began in the  White House

 

Blindsided? Numerous sources say it never happened, but Senator Dick Durbin's Facebook wall still claims it did 

Blindsided? Numerous sources say it never happened, but  Senator Dick Durbin’s Facebook wall still claims it did

 

‘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 claimed Sunday on  his Facebook page.

‘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?’

The post was still on Durbin’s Facebook page  three hours after Carney admitted the White House had gotten it wrong.

Asked about the senator’s description of the  exchange on Wednesday, Carney issued a flat denial.

‘I looked into this and spoke with somebody  who was in that meeting, and it did not happen,’ he said during his press  briefing on Wednesday.

And a spokesman for House Speaker John  Boehner, who participated in the meeting, seconded Carney’s early  statement.

Speaker of the House John Boehner's spokesmen both said Durbin was repeating a false rumor on Wednesday 

Speaker of the House John Boehner’s spokesmen both said  Durbin was repeating a false rumor on Wednesday

 

MEA CULPA: Carney copped to the WHite House 'miscommunicating' with a Democratic Senate leader, which led to the phony quote circulating on Capitol Hill 

MEA CULPA: Carney copped to the WHite House  ‘miscommunicating’ with a Democratic Senate leader, which led to the phony quote  circulating on Capitol Hill

 

‘Senator Durbin’s accusation is a serious  one, and it appears to have been  invented out of thin air,’ said Boehner flack  Brendan Buck.

Deputy White House Chief of Staff Rob Nabors is allegedly the official who told Sen. Harry Reid about the phony quote and attributed it to Rep. Pete Sessions 

Deputy White House Chief of Staff Rob Nabors is  allegedly the official who told Sen. Harry Reid about the phony quote and  attributed it to Rep. Pete Sessions

‘The senator should disclose who told him  this account of events, retract his reckless allegation immediately, and  apologize.’

Durbin spokesman Max  Gleischman shot back. ‘Senator Durbin  stands by his comments,’ he said Wednesday.

‘The  speaker certainly didn’t say that and does not recall anyone else doing so,’  added another Boehner spokesman, Michael Steel.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee  slammed Durbin, claiming that he, not GOP members of Congress, ‘is at the crux  of the partisan divide in Washington’ as the No. 2 Senate Democrat.

‘How can voters trust anything this man says?  Durbin should either reveal his “source” or retract his partisan attack  immediately and apologize,’ spokeswoman Brook Hougesen told the Chicago Tribune. ‘His credibility is  waning.’

Buck added in a comment to the Huffington Post: ‘This didn’t happen and The  Huffington Post should be looking into who started this false rumor.’

 

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