David Axelrod denied having any role in leaking Obama opponent Jack Ryan’s divorce records during the 2004 Illinois Senate race.
Axelrod made the denial at an event at which he zinged Hillary Clinton, answered to controversy surrounding his depiction of Obama’s gay marriage stance, and said that Republicans are doomed without Jeb Bush and his pro-immigration policies.
“No,” Axelrod told The Daily Caller at a book forum Wednesday at Sixth & I Synagogue in Washington, D.C. The former Obama adviser has long been speculated as the man who got the Chicago Tribune, which he used to work for, to legally pursue and obtain Republican Ryan’s divorce records, which had to be unsealed by a California judge. The records showed that Ryan brought his actress wife Jeri Ryan to sex clubs in New York and Paris. The revelations knocked Ryan out of the race and paved the way for Obama’s national political career.
“They didn’t need any prompting from me,” Axelrod said of the Tribune while awkwardly signing an overpriced $35 book “To Tucker.”
Axelrod, amiably interviewed at the forum by Slate’s John Dickerson, called Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign “One of the most exhilarating campaigns” he’s ever worked on. But Axelrod’s book makes only three brief mentions of Jack Ryan and summarizes the career-changing scandal thusly (p. 155): “Meanwhile, Obama’s opponent and the Republican’s rising star, Jack Ryan, collapsed after his own divorce file was released, detailing steamy allegations that he had forced his ex-wife to accompany him to sex clubs.”
Axelrod said at the event that Republicans will be doomed if they choose not to nominate Jeb Bush and his pro-immigration reform agenda.
“He seems to be sticking to his position on immigration reform,” Axelrod said, adding that if Bush loses the primary then “he will lose and the Republican Party will lose as well.”
Axelrod said the GOP’s fortunes “will center on what happens with that [immigration] experiment.”
Axelrod referenced some contention with Obama’s onetime primary opponent Hillary Clinton. “It’s an unlikely thing to say. I consider her a friend. She might not consider me a friend.”
Axelrod reserved a good deal of ire for congressional Republicans, blaming GOP leadership for gridlock in Washington.
“It was his expectation and ours that he would be able to find partners” on the other side of the aisle, Axelrod said, but when Democrats took a firm majority after the 2008 elections Republicans said “YOU guys take care of it…they would let us take care of it ourselves.” Axelrod called the GOP’s plan a “shrewd, you could say diabolical, but effective strategy.”
Axelrod’s book has already garnered controversy for claiming that Obama was a self-admitted “bullshitter” in citing his Christian faith on the campaign trail to explain his fake opposition to gay marriage, which he took to help him win the Christian black vote.
Axelrod condemned headlines saying that Obama “lied” about his gay marriage stance, but admitted that “He never handled it particularly cleanly.”
Axelrod’s book also claims that Romney bothered Obama in his Election Night concession call by crediting Obama with getting the vote out in places like Milwaukee and Cleveland, which Obama perceived to be a racial jab.
But Romney aide Garrett Jackson, whose phone Romney used to call Obama, told TheDC that the story was a complete and utter fabrication, probably on Axelrod’s part but possibly on the president’s.
Confronted with the discrepancy on “The Today Show,” Axelrod doubled down on the claim in a weird way that suggests Obama might have mischaracterized what Romney said.
“Well, there were five people standing around the president when he got off the phone. All of them have the same recollection. Several of them have gone public since this started,” Axelrod said. “I don’t think the president made that up. I don’t think Romney was trying to be ungracious either, but we had just come through a long battle. They saw this through different lenses. It’s natural to have these kinds of reactions.”