White House spokesman Jay Carney repeatedly refused today to condemn aggressive statements by Teamsters president James Hoffa at a Labor Day event headlined by President Barack Obama.
“Those weren’t comments by the president … he didn’t hear it, I don’t have any comment beyond that,” Carney said in response to questions from ABC’s Jake Tapper. “Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself, he speaks for the labor movement,” Carney added during the afternoon press conference.
Obama addressed the union-friendly crowd at the Detroit event roughly 20 minutes after Hoffa declared that “President Obama, this is your army … Let’s take these sons of bitches out and take America back to where we belong.”
The term “sons of bitches” was used to refer to Republican legislators and Tea Party supporters.
Union leaders and membership support is critical to Obama’s 2012 campaign, providing an often dependable source of donations and campaign volunteers.
Tapper continued, pressing Carney to explain if the president’s repeated calls for “civility” was compatible with the White House’s silence on Hoffa’s statements. (RELATED: Palin calls out Hoffa’s thuggery for his ‘sons of b**ches’ remark)
In January, following the attempted murder of Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Obama called for greater civility. “At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds,” Obama declared.
When Tapper asked if Obama believed those words, Carney responded, “Of course he did.”
Carney also declined to answer Tapper’s question about whether Carney’s refusal to comment on Hoffa’s statements “changes the standard” for judging the statements and actions of a politician’s supporters.
“The standard is that we should focus on the actions we can take to grow the economy and create jobs, instead of focusing on [political] theater,” Carney replied.
In his report at ABC News, Tapper coined a new term, “The Hoffa Standard,” to describe the White House’s claim that it has no responsibility to respond to bellicose statements by an ally during a joint event.