White House press secretary Josh Earnest said today that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wasn’t qualified to “lecture” a senior administration official who called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu a “chickenshit” because he uses bad words himself.
Boehner issued a statement today decrying the “fundamental failure” of “the disrespectful rhetoric used time and again by this administration with respect to the special relationship the United States has with the state of Israel.”
“The administration scoffs at the enduring willingness of members of both parties to maintain commitments to our friends and allies, contending that those commitments are mere sentiment, while all the while the administration and the president himself are taken aback that friends and allies won’t support him when he ignores them and, in some cases, belittles them,” Boehner said.
“When the president discusses Israel and Iran, it is sometimes hard to tell who he thinks is America’s friend and who he thinks is America’s enemy. The House of Representatives has no trouble drawing that distinction. Over the last several months, I have watched the administration insult ally after ally. I am tired of the administration’s apology tour. The president sets the tone for his administration. He either condones the profanity and disrespect used by the most senior members of his administration, or he does not. It is time for him to get his house in order and tell the people that can’t muster professionalism that it is time to move on.”
At today’s briefing, Earnest called the statement “an interesting observation by the speaker of the House, whom you all know has a penchant for using some pretty salty language himself.”
“So it’s a little rich to have a lecture about profanity from the speaker of the House,” the press secretary added.
“Has he ever said that about a prime minister or a president?” Earnest was asked.
“I don’t know. You’d have to ask him,” Earnest replied. “…He’s reportedly said that about the majority leader of the United States Senate. And as long as we’re talking about respect, I think that’s notable.”
Boehner has told Harry Reid “go f–k yourself” and called the cap-and-trade bill a “pile of s–t” — on the record.
“But I will say as a general matter that I am not aware of who made those comments to Mr. Goldberg,” Earnest said of The Atlantic article. “I do not know if the president knows who made those comments. I would be surprised if he did. But the fact is anonymous comments like that on a range of issues are not particularly unique. A lot of you spend a lot of time talking to administration officials and trying to discern what those individuals have to say, or what those individuals have to say and how it reflects on United States policy.”
Earnest was asked if Obama had or would call Netanyahu to apologize for the comment.
“I don’t have any calls on the president’s schedule to tell you about,” he said. “But I think — I can confidently say that, based on the numerous conversations that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have held, that the prime minister is well aware of the value that President Obama personally places on the strength of the relationship between the United States and Israel.”
Earnest said he doesn’t “know of any effort” underway to find or punish the official who insulted Netanyahu.
“Again, there are anonymous comments like this that are shared with reporters like yourself on a pretty regular basis, and what we have found to be the most effective tactic is to help all of you understand the proper context for those comments,” he said.
“In this case, I’m not sure there is a proper context for those comments, because they are so directly in opposition to the true view and policy of this administration.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stressed that the comments were “not isolated insults.”
“They are part of a pattern of disrespectful and profoundly counterproductive behavior that has strained the critical alliance between the United States and Israel,” McCarthy said. “I call on President Obama to firmly repudiate these views and to instruct his staff that such comments are completely unacceptable.”