NEW YORK — In an apparent reference to a tense, reportedly disrespectful, exchange between himself and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) during a congressional hearing Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called out the "unprecedented, unwarranted" adversity he and President Barack Obama have been facing in their respective offices Wednesday.
Addressing a full house at the national convention of Al Sharpton's civil rights group, National Action Network in New York City Wednesday, Holder took a swipe at his agitator.
"Since the day I became attorney general in 2009, I have been proud to stand alongside you in supporting efforts to advance the cause of justice that has always been the center of this, this administration's work," he said.
"I am pleased to note that the last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity," he continued.
"If you don't believe that, you look at the way, forget about me, you look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee … What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?" he asked.
Holder and Gohmert, who faced off over a disparaging comment about "asparagus" in 2013, argued again on Tuesday over a claim made by Gohmert that the Department of Justice ignored requests from congressional investigators to turn over certain documents.
"I think what we promised to do is to provide you and your staff with," Holder began in his response to Gohmert before he was interrupted.
"Sir, I've read you what your department promised and it is inadequate, and I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight," said Gohmert.
"You don't want to go there, buddy. You don't want to go there, okay?" said a miffed Holder.
"I don't want to go there? About the contempt?" asked Gohmert.
"You should not assume that is not a big deal to me. I think that it was inappropriate, I think it was unjust. But never think that was not a big deal to me. Don't ever think that," said Holder.
Gohmert ran out of time before he was able to clarify his statement but Holder had heard enough to understand his "diss."
"Good luck with your asparagus," Holder responded.
A report in The Wire explained Holder's asparagus comment.
"That comment is simple to explain. It was, as the kids say, an f-you, a not-subtle dig at Gohmert's reputation for exaggeration and confusion. It was an attempt to make Gohmert feel bad, to get under his skin. It was, in other words, punitive — not necessarily the sort of thing you want to see from America's main law enforcement official, particularly when he's being grilled by the committee that oversees his work," noted the report.