WASHINGTON — The White House on Wednesday disputed Sen. Dick Durbin's assertion that a House Republican leader insulted President Barack Obama while negotiating with the president over the partial government shutdown.
But Durbin, an Illinoisan who is a friend and ally of the president, stood by his story, according to numerous media reports.
In a Facebook post Sunday that remained up Wednesday night, Durbin wrote:
"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. But in a 'negotiation' meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: 'I cannot even stand to look at you.'"
Obama spokesman Jay Carney, speaking Wednesday to reporters, said he looked into Durbin's account and spoke to somebody who was at the meeting, and "it did not happen."
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner called on Durbin to immediately retract the "reckless allegation" and apologize. The spokesman, Brendan Buck, said Durbin's accusation was "serious … and it appears to have been invented out of thin air." Buck also called for Durbin to disclose who gave him that account from the meeting.
At the National Republican Senatorial Committee, spokeswoman Brook Hougesen's comments mirrored Buck's. "Senator Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, is at the crux of the partisan divide in Washington," she said. "How can voters trust anything this man says? Durbin should either reveal his 'source' or retract his partisan attack immediately and apologize. His credibility is waning."
Durbin's office did not respond to the Tribune's questions, but various media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and Politico, quoted Durbin spokesman Max Gleischman as saying that Durbin stands by his comments.
Durbin, 68, who is No. 2 in the Senate Democratic leadership, is up for re-election next year.
Illinois' senior senator got in hot water eight years ago over remarks for which he later apologized. In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin compared the U.S. treatment of Guantanamo Bay terrorism suspects to something "done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings."
The remarks drew condemnation from many quarters and even a call for his censure.
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