Tapper Pushes, But Carney Won't Put Distance Between Hoffa and Obama on Civility

While ABC didn't find time for the James Hoffa outburst this morning, ABC reporter Jake Tapper repeatedly engaged White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday on the question of whether Obama felt Hoffa was in the spirit of Obama's January speech in Tucson about the need for civility.

Carney repeatedly backed away from the opportunity to distance the president from Obama (other than lamely claiming he hadn't arrived yet). Carney claimed there's a "ritual in Washington" to press for disavowal, but Obama wasn't present. There's also a "ritual in Washington" where a president doesn't want to upset his liberal/leftist base, which is clearly being observed. Here's a look at the Tapper-Carney exchanges as transcribed by MRC's Scott Whitlock:

JAKE TAPPER: And, lastly, Jay, in January, President Obama said, after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, "At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay all the ills of the world at people who think differently than we do, it's important to pause for a moment to make sure that we are talking to each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds." Did he mean that? 

JAY CARNEY: Of course he did. 

TAPPER: How does-- How do the comments by the teamster's president fit in with that? 

CARNEY: Well, first of all, those weren't comments by the President. The President wasn't there. Secondly, and I think has been reported- 

TAPPER: Comments by a union leader at an event that President Obama spoke at. 

CARNEY: I understand that there is a ritual in Washington that somebody said something and then you link the associations and then everyone who has an association with him or her somehow has to avow or disavow. The President wasn't there. I mean, he wasn't on stage. He didn't speak for another twenty minutes. He didn't hear it. I really don't have any comment beyond that. 

TAPPER: Okay, well, some of us covered the campaign and recall a time when someone made some harsh comments about then-Senator Obama while- during an introduction of a McCain rally and the Obama campaign was offended and expected an apology and Senator McCain came out and did so. 

CARNEY: Well- Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself. He speaks for the labor movement, AFL-CIO. The President speaks for himself. I speak for the President. What the President was glad to do yesterday was have the opportunity to present his views on working Americans and the importance of taking measures to help working Americans to create jobs to grow the economy. 

TAPPER: So, the President you're setting right now for the 2012 election is the candidates- the Republican candidates are the ones that we need to pay attention to and those who introduce them at rallies, their surrogates, you don't have to pay attention to anything they say. 

CARNEY: Jake- I think I've said what I can say. 

TAPPER: Is that the standard now? 

CARNEY: You can report it as you like. 

TAPPER: I'd rather not have to do this Washington Kabuki every time something happens, but if that's the standard, if that's the standard- 

CARNEY: The standard is, we should focus on the actions we can take to grow the economy and create jobs, instead of focusing on Kabuki theater.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis