— -- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today that he feels “sorry” for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is under fire for recently questioning President Obama’s love for America.
“I feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani today,” Earnest said at the White House press briefing.
“It’s sad to see when somebody who's attained a certain level of public stature and even admiration tarnishes that legacy so thoroughly,” Earnest said of the former Republican mayor.
Earnest said the president has expressed his love for America on numerous occasions and highlighted the last line of this year’s State of the Union address when President Obama said “God bless this country we love.”
At a private dinner in New York City on Wednesday, Giuliani, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2008, said he does not believe President Obama loves America.
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said, according to Politico. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”
Giuliani doubled down on his comments in an interview with FOX News on Thursday.
Asked if he wanted to apologize for his comments, the former New York City mayor said, “Not at all. I want to repeat them.”
“I don’t hear from him what I heard from Harry Truman, what I heard from Bill Clinton, what I heard from Jimmy Carter, which is these wonderful words about what a great country we are, what an exceptional country we are,” Giuliani said. “I’m right about this. I have no doubt about it. I do not withdraw my words.”
In a separate interview with the New York Times, Giuliani dismissed criticism that his comments were racist.
“Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people,” Giuliani said. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”
Democrats quickly rebuked Giuliani for his comments and criticized Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was in attendance at the dinner, for not condemning the comments.
“In all seriousness, I rarely agreed with President Bush, but I never questioned his love for our country. I don’t often agree with my Republican colleagues on the Hill, but I know they love America,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Thursday. “Is this what it’s really come to? Really?”
“One of the GOP frontrunners was sitting just feet away, and didn’t say a word,” Wasserman Schultz said of Walker.
“If the Republican Party really wants to be taken seriously, really wants to avoid its problems of the past, now is the time for its leaders to stop this kind of nonsense. Enough,” she said. “I would challenge my Republican colleagues and anyone in the Republican Party to say enough. They need to start leading.”
Several Republican presidential contenders have declined to weigh in on Giuliani’s controversial comments.
"The mayor can speak for himself," Walker said in an interview with CNBC Thursday. "I'm not going to comment on what the President thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well.”
"Perhaps he should have chosen different phraseology for his remarks. The level of the President’s love for our country is immaterial at this juncture. What President Obama has obviously demonstrated for everyone is that he is incapable of successfully executing his duties as our Commander in Chief,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said. “The gist of what Mayor Giuliani said – that the President has shown himself to be completely unable to speak the truth about the nature of the threats from these ISIS terrorists- is true.”
“If you are looking for someone to condemn the Mayor, look elsewhere,” Jindal added.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Republicans shouldn't be expected to account for every comment made by a fellow Republican.
"I don't feel like I'm in a position to have to answer for everyone in my party who makes a claim. Democrats aren't asked to answer every time Joe Biden says something embarrassing," Rubio told ABC affiliate WPBF. "I don't know why I should answer every time a republican does. So I will suffice it to say I believe the President loves America. His ideas are bad."
The White House made a subtle dig at Giuliani in a tweet on Thursday, using the hashtag "#ObamaLovesAmerica"