October 24th, 2013
02:57 PM ET
5 years ago

Sources: Word of alleged rude GOP comment came from WH deputy chief of staff

Washington (CNN) - The rude comment that might or might not have happened just isn’t going away, with sources telling CNN that word of the remarks came from White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors.

Allegations of the remark, which supposedly happened during an October 10 government shutdown meeting with House Republicans, first surfaced when Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, posted on his Facebook page that an unnamed senior House Republican told President Barack Obama that “I cannot even stand to look at you.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied on Wednesday that the remark was ever made. Durbin has stuck to his story, though he refuses to say who made the alleged comment or how he learned of it.

Sources, however, tell CNN that Durbin learned of the alleged comment from Nabors, a longtime Hill insider.

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.

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."

The White House’s denial has upset Senate Democrats, since they had heard the story from the Nabors. The White House is now accusing Durbin of sharing an untruthful story.

But on Thursday a White House official accepted some blame for the story.

“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,” the official said. “We regret the misunderstanding.”

Senior administration officials tell CNN that, according to those White House officials who were in the room, Sessions’ comments at the October 10 meeting were expressing frustration with the shutdown standoff, not with President Obama.

White House officials would not comment on whether Nabors misunderstood what Sessions said, or whether he just miscommunicated the story to Senate Democrats.

Nabors could not be reached for comment.

–CNN’s Jim Acosta and Athena Jones contributed to this story.

Filed under: President Obama • White House
soundoff (149 Responses)
  1. just saying

    Rochester NY
    Joe Wilson said "You lie" on national television during the State of the Union. It is not difficult to believe this was said in a private meeting

    do we really need to run done the list of the thousands of lies that obama has told the american people? joe wilson was the first to call obama on his massive littany of lies. he should be given a medal for sounding the first alarm for the american people.

    October 24, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  2. MrHighMighty

    I hate to stoop to name-calling (or giving the impression that this "controversy" is even relevant), but.....
    Insecure children and raving idiots are ruining our government.

    October 24, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. DaveM

    I dunno. “I cannot even stand to look at you.” seems like a pretty specific comment and echoes the general toxic partisan rhetoric the GOP says to the press. It looks like the White House is trying to calm people down by denying it because nothing good can come from ratcheting up up the b.s.

    October 24, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. DaveinIL

    What's the point of this whole story other than to draw attention away for the real issues in Washington. The White House has denied the story.
    CNN TV covers Obama's immigration speech, the hearing on the Obamacare website, shootings near a naval base, and other current events yet the big stories here are this dust up and the two day old murder of a school teacher. Come on, CNN, be a real news organization rather than a scandal sheet gossip column.

    October 24, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  5. Kenman

    This kind of outrageous conduct is exactly the kind that Obama rails against ever so often, right after or before doing it himself! And it is exactly the kind that HE should come out a specifically address and condemn!

    What liberals are willing to say in general is over the top, shameless and irresponsible, if they continue to LIE in that effort they should be called on the carpet and have a little (look it up in the dictionary) SHAME applied!

    What an administration, and how far the Democrat Party has fallen!

    October 24, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. $$$$

    "White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied on Wednesday that the remark was ever made. Durbin has stuck to his story, though he refuses to say who made the alleged comment or how he learned of it."

    TRANSLATION: Do anything, just changed the story in the news cycle so the media is not discussing the Obamacare debacle.

    October 24, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  7. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    To call the House Republicans stooges would be an insult to Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp!

    October 24, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  8. Al-NY,NY

    just saying

    it is pretty clear there is no depth to which the democrats/liberals/leftists will not stoop to attack and damage their political opponents. using the irs against their opponents. planting false statements in the press. they know the damage will be done and never corrected.

    btw, did you hear that obama is cheating on michelle with valeria jarret? maybe the republicnas need to play using the same rules?

    see comments by rs

    October 24, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. PB in Spotsy

    Sen. Reid confirms the story. However, it may be an incredibly disrepectful and rude statement, but it is not racist. I doubt that Sen Sessions would have meant that he couldn't bear looking at the President because he is African American. It sounds like an expression of exasperation.

    October 24, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  10. Z_nips

    Here we are... the 21st century... all of this amazing technology... and what do we use it for?

    To talk about who said what about who. WOW, humans, good job. I bet the aliens are reeeeeally happy they shared what they did with us now. 😉

    October 24, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  11. pitt04

    I am sure Barack is sick of looking at them too.

    October 24, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. Woody's Hay

    Comical ... so all the people who say that Obama and his White House administration does nothing but lie to pump up the President, are now saying that the White House is telling the truth about Sessions???

    You nuts are hilarious ...

    October 24, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |

    Given democrats are calling the GOP terrorists, the GOP tone is quite respectful.

    October 24, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. Jeff

    I think Republicans are so upset by this because they believe they are the only ones who can make up stories and facts to support their ideas and statements.

    October 24, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. sly

    TeaBillies, especially from Texas, have no class, and are basically secessionist Confederate losers.

    Poor losers it sounds like.

    It is time to let Texas seceed from the union. It is a very unattractive state.

    October 24, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  16. teaparty days are numbered

    With all the accusations that have been thrown out by the teaparty over the years and as rabid as texas tpers are, i would be more inclinded to believe the honorable Dick Durbin.

    October 24, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. J-Man

    I love politics. Miscommunicated. If a Democrat tells an outright lie, it is a miscommunication, but only if you get caught. It really doesn't matter because all of your brain dead followers don't care. And will repeat the same lie as if it the truth. No morals. No work ethic. Anti-America. Anti -capitalism. Anti-self reliance. If you are a Democrat those are your best qualities.

    October 24, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  18. A True Conservative

    Typical political move....when news is bad...invent something to distract the people.....Now let's get back to the real issues...criminal activity in the IRS, failure of the Obama signature health legislation, spying on American citizens....I don't care about rude words in a closed door meeting........

    October 24, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. Sol Daf

    No smoke without fire. I truly believe that comment was made, but this president never likes to acknowledge racism against him, because he knows, that NARRATIVE would blow up, and distract from his agenda. Of course, they dont like to add racism to Whitehouse talking point. But I'm sure it did happen

    October 24, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  20. Woody's Hay

    "Rochester NY" – I highly doubt that Joe Wilson would have had the guts to say it to Obama's face. He did it because he knew he could duck away when someone looked to see who said it.

    October 24, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  21. Tommy G

    WH deputy chief of staff

    This guy was no low level staffer. Can you imagine all the other lies he has spread and not gotten caught for? He needs to be fired immediately and anybody that repeated it needs to publicly apologize for their mistake. Man up Democrats. For once in your life, do the right thing.

    October 24, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  22. TONE

    Mr President stop this nice guy nonsense, because i believe Senator Durbin these kkklans men do not like you because you are black.

    October 24, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  23. are122

    The Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois says it all.

    October 24, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  24. kfletch87

    @sniffit....perhaps you should read into the recent Canadian court ruling...death panels exist...and they will soon exist here in America. You can call them what you wish, but the fact is that doctors and non medical professionals WILL get to choose the services you receive when you get older. THEY will get to overrule families' objections when patients are unable to speak for themselves. THEY will get to determine who receives what medical procedures. If you are 70 and need a hip replacement, and they don't think you will live much longer even with a it, you will be denied the procedure.

    In short, they didn't lie. People are just so stupid and naive they believe our government would never do such a thing. Apparently you are one of said idiots.

    October 24, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. TiredofSilly1

    Oh for god's sake. I can't stand to look at him either. What's the big deal???

    October 24, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
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