White House Faults GOP Candidates for Not Chastising Unruly Audience Members at Debates

Sep 26, 2011 5:24pm
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John Raoux/AP Photo

The White House today added to the president’s criticism the night before of the audiences at Republican presidential debates, chastising the GOP candidates for staying silent in the face of objectionable eruptions by some members of the audience.

At a fundraiser in California on Sunday night, President Obama said of the debates, “You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay. That’s not reflective of who we are.”

The boos and applause came from what sounded like less than a handful of individuals, it should be noted.

Regardless, White House press secretary Jay Carney elaborated on the president’s remarks, saying, “There was a question asked by a soldier, a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq, about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the fact that when he was booed by audience members, not a single one of the candidates for president, people who believe they have what it takes to be commander in chief, said a thing about that. And he is there defending our country, putting his life on the line for our country.

“The president was also struck by, in an earlier debate, where the hypothetical question was asked about someone who didn’t have health insurance that had died and there were cheers at that prospect and no candidate had anything to say about that,” Carney said. “It’s a matter of values. It’s a matter of who we are as Americans.”

Some of the Republican candidates have told ABC News that they weren’t aware of the cheering or booing from the stage, while others weren’t certain what the cheers were for.

Earlier this month, Carney refused to condemn Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr., who called Tea Party members “sons of bitches” at a labor event the president attended.

“I understand that there is a ritual in Washington that, you know, somebody says something and you link the associations and then everybody who has an association with him or her is somehow — has to avow or disavow it,” Carney said, adding that the president wasn’t on stage at the time and “didn’t hear it. … Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself. … The president speaks for himself.”

– Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce

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