Boehner, Cantor Spokesman Deny Durbin Account of White House Meeting

by Jonathan Strong

Spokesmen for both Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor say neither official said or remembers anyone else saying they couldn’t stand to look at President Obama at a White House summit during the government shutdown, as Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois alleged in a Facebook post.

“The speaker certainly didn’t say that, and does not recall anyone else doing so,” says Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman. Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper also says his boss did not say and does not remember anyone saying that.

Durbin said in an October 20 Facebook post, “In a ‘negotiation’ meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you.’”

Besides the fact that the top two GOP officials in the House don’t remember the moment, the allegation is odd for a number of reasons. First, Durbin doesn’t specify who allegedly said it. Second, and more important, the manner in which Durbin conveyed the information (a weekend Facebook post) doesn’t comport with how Democrats likely would have used the information had it been true.

If, at the meeting between Obama and the House GOP leaders, one Republican had told Obama he can’t stand to even look at him, that information would have been immediately useful to Democrats in the ongoing fights over the shutdown and the debt ceiling as evidence of GOP intransigence and unreasonableness. That makes it more likely it would have been leaked then and to a media outlet with credibility to convincingly assert the event actually took place.