Joining other conservatives who have claimed that President Obama bears "responsibility" for violence at town hall meetings, Andrew Breitbart distorted a reported quote from a White House official in claiming that "union thugs were directed by the White House to go to" the meetings "and 'punch back twice as hard.' " In fact, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina reportedly used that phrase while speaking to Senate Democrats -- not to any union groups -- and there is no indication it was anything other than a metaphorical explanation of how the White House plans to respond to attacks against Senate Democrats.
Breitbart claims White House "directed" "union thugs ... to go to the protests and 'punch back twice as hard' "
Breitbart wrote in his August 10 Washington Times column:
Last week, a black gentleman named Kenneth Gladney went to a town-hall meeting hosted by Rep. Russ Carnahan, Missouri Democrat. While passing out "Don't Tread on Me" flags, he was viciously attacked by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members. One called him a "nigger."
These union thugs were directed by the White House to go to the protests and "punch back twice as hard." And they did.
WH official was reportedly speaking to Senate Democrats when he said, "If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard"
The Politico reported on August 6:
Top White House aides gave Senate Democrats a recess battle plan on Thursday, arming the lawmakers with tips for avoiding disastrous town hall meetings while showing them polling on popular aspects of the reform effort.
Senior White House adviser David Axelrod and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina told senators to focus on the insured and how they would benefit from "consumer protections" in the overhaul, such as ending the practice of denying insurance based on preexisting conditions and ensuring the continuity of coverage between jobs.
They showed video clips of the confrontational town halls that have dominated the media coverage, and told senators to do more prep work than usual for their public meetings by making sure their own supporters turn out, senators and aides said.
And they screened TV ads and reviewed the various campaigns by critics of the Democratic plan.
"If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard," Messina said, according to an official who attended the meeting.
Nowhere in the article is the SEIU -- or other any union -- even mentioned.
Other media figures claim White House bears "responsibility" for violence at town halls
Breitbart was just the latest media figure to allege that the Obama administration is in some way "responsible" for violence that has, or will, erupt at health care town hall meetings.
- On the August 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity, radio host Mark Levin said: "As a matter of fact, let me suggest that if there's anything that happens at these town hall meetings, if anybody's hurt or anything really stupid happens, this White House has some responsibility for it. ... If something terrible happens at one of these town hall meetings, I think the president, in part, can be held accountable."
- On the August 7 broadcast of his radio show, CNN host Lou Dobbs said: "But I gotta tell you, what this White House is leading us to is direct confrontation -- physical confrontation -- and they're gonna take -- President Obama will take full responsibility for what happens here."
- On the August 6 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh said, "This is what's happening -- Obama has mobilized union thugs to go out and also attend these town meetings to intimidate the genuine citizens out there who are upset about this."