This little Capitol Hill dust-up has grown more complicated than the last few seasons of “Lost,” and involves more billowing clouds of smoke. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote a Facebook post in which he claimed an unnamed senior House Republican said to President Obama, during the shutdown crisis, “I am so disgusted. I cannot even stand to look at you.”
Both the Republican leadership and the White House promptly denied the story. “I looked into this and spoke with somebody who was in that meeting and it did not happen,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday. Durbin evidently was not present at the meeting he described.
This doesn’t seem like the sort of thing the White House would cover up, especially not at the time it allegedly occurred. They might be trying to butter up the Republicans for a deal to save ObamaCare, but I doubt anyone in the Obama White House thinks the Republicans need that much butter. These are the people who felt free to refer to the loyal opposition as “terrorists” and “hostage takers.”
Amusingly, there were some on the Left who took Durbin’s side, by extension calling President Obama and his press secretary liars. The media grew interested enough to track down the provenance of the story. It turns out the Republican who supposedly got lippy with President Obama was Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). Then there were rumors Durbin got the tale from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has a history of fabricating slanderous allegations against political opponents, notably when he falsely alleged years of tax evasion by 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
But according to CNN, Reid and Durbin both got the story from White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, which now says the whole thing was a “mis-communication.”
According to the sources, Nabors told the story to four Senate Democrats ??? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, New York???s Chuck Schumer, Washington???s Patty Murray, and Durbin ??? on October 15, near the end of the shutdown.
Reid then told the story to the entire Senate Democratic caucus, identifying the Republican in question as Texas Rep. Pete Sessions.
Senate Democrats are now said to be miffed at the White House for feeding them a phony story. Republicans are calling for a formal retraction and apology:
Sessions denies the story. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner has demanded Durbin retract his allegation and apologize.
???Senator Durbin???s accusation is a serious one, and it appears to have been invented out of thin air,??? spokesman Brendan Buck said. ???The Senator should disclose who told him this account of events, retract his reckless allegations immediately, and apologize.???
Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who attended the White House meeting, told CNN that Durbin’s account “never happened.”
“It’s irresponsible and divisive of him because it never happened and he ought to apologize for saying it. He ought to just man up and say ‘You know what, I said something foolish I shouldn???t have said, it didn???t happen??? and apologize.”
Not only does Senator Durbin seem disinclined to apologize, he’s actually raising money off the phony story. On Wednesday, a spokesman said that Durbin “stands by his comments.” While we wait for him to find his sense of honor, perhaps the White House would care to explain exactly what kind of “mis-communication” could result in such confusion, and what message they were trying to communicate.
Update: Related via Powerline, John Kass of the Chicago Tribune offers an angle on the story that had not occurred to me: Durbin and/or Reid cooked the story up for political gain, got caught fibbing, and now the White House is trying to save their bacon by tossing out the “mis-communication” line.