- (Photo: Reuters / Evan Falk)
James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, created quite a stir over the weekend with his combative Labor Day speech. Conservatives are crying foul, saying his remarks were too hostile. Hoffa, however, stands by his remarks.
"Everybody here has a vote," Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, said Monday at a Detroit event. "If we go back and we keep the eye on the prize, let's take these sons of bitches out and give America back to America where we belong."
The remarks came directly prior to President Obama's appearance at the event. Obama made no mention of Hoffa’s words and continued on with his prepared speech. Conservatives were critical of the President for not condemning the remarks.
Hoffa told Talking Points Memo he doesn't regret his choice of words.
"They've declared war on us," he said, referring to Republicans who've rolled back union rights with laws restricting collective bargaining. "We didn't declare war on them, they declared war on us. We're fighting back. The question is, who started the war?"
Hostile comments such as those made by Hoffa have often been debated in the media since the January shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Extreme rhetoric was thought, mainly by the political left, to have encouraged the violent act. Tea Party members and, in particular, Sarah Palin came under scrutiny for what the left called violent rhetoric.
The Tea Party is now pointing to comments made by the figures on the left, most recently Hoffa, to counter notions that they are the ones spewing hatred.
"Lying attacks on the Tea Party movement have disturbingly increased in recent days," Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said in a statement. "It is high time that elected leaders like President Obama were held accountable when their key supporters engage in harmful and divisive rhetoric. We at Tea Party Express demand an immediate apology from Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa. We further urge President Obama to strongly rebuke Hoffa for his dangerous comments."
Sarah Palin, the unofficial leader of the Tea Party, responded to Hoffa’s remarks in a Facebook post, accusing him of “thuggery.”
"Union bosses like this do not have your best interests at heart," she writes. "What they care about is their own power and re-electing their friend Barack Obama so he will take care of them to the detriment of everyone else."
Palin, who herself has been criticized for caustic language, went on to claim that the Tea Party is the real defender of workers' rights. "These union bosses," she said, "are desperately trying to cast the grass-roots tea party movement as being ‘against the working man.’ How outrageously wrong this unapologetic Jim Hoffa is, for the people’s movement is the real movement for working class men and women. It’s rooted in real solidarity, and not special interests and corporate kickbacks.
“We stand with the little guy," she continued, "against the corruption and influence peddling of those who collude to grease the wheels of government power. This collusion is at the heart of Obama’s economic vision for America. In practice it is socialism for the very rich and the very poor, but a brutal form of capitalism for the rest of us.”
The White House has made no comment on the Hoffa's language. And Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of a number of Democratic lawmkers who urged more peaceful rhetoric after Giffords was shot, declined to condemn the union boss.
"I know you'd like to focus on language," Wasserman Schultz told Fox News Tuesday. "That's not what the American people are focused on."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, was also a guest on Fox, but, unlike Wasserman Schultz, denounced Hoffa's remarks. "You wouldn't be bleeping it out if it was appropriate," he told his interviewers.