You're a Racist if You're Not Offended by This White House Leak

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 25 2013 11:13 AM

You're a Racist if You're Not Offended by This White House Leak

Rumor has it Rep. Pete Sessions told President Obama, "I cannot even stand to look at you."

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

On Sunday afternoon, when not too many people were paying attention, Sen. Dick Durbin seemed to add to the reporting on the shutdown. "In a 'negotiation' meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: 'I cannot even stand to look at you.' "

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

I asked around as to who might have said this. When I learned that rumor mill fingered Rep. Pete Sessions, who runs the Rules Committee, I asked his office whether it was true. When they denied it, I dropped the story. Seemed like the definition of a petty scandal. But the Huffington Post double-teamed the story and came back with a culprit.

[Harry] Reid relayed the story to the entire Democratic caucus on Tuesday, Oct. 15, and named Sessions, according to one of the two Democratic senators who spoke to HuffPost. Reid also told the caucus that he was “sorry” to have to tell them about it, per this senator, but gave Obama credit for his “dignified” response to Sessions. Reid reportedly told the caucus that Obama responded to Sessions by saying he understood that they disagreed on many issues and he respected their differences.
Two Senate Democratic aides separately told HuffPost that White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors was the official who originally told Democratic leaders about the Sessions incident.

But by this point, the White House was denying that the incident ever occurred. On Twitter, I suggested that it was an awful lot of ado over something that would be a minor detail in a future tell-all. To my surprise this started a small deluge of comments accusing me of being blinded by white privilege.

And so on. I wasn't offended at all—this was the first development that made the story somewhat interesting. If the White House did leak the story, after the shutdown was over, whom was the leak meant to capitivate? The most intrigued spectators would have been devoted Democrats, already ginned up because of the shutdown, and further incensed to see the president disrespected. For Democrats, especially black Democrats, there's a growing list of indignities that have been hurled at the president by white conservatives. Joe Wilson's "you lie" heckle, which netted him his highest-ever fundraising hauls. The chain emails in which the president is a witch doctor. Birtherism. The Sessions "quote" Lego'd right into the story line.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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