[This post has been updated to include an ellipses in a quote by Teamsters’ Leader Jimmy Hoffa. His full remarks at a Labor Day rally in Detroit were: “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. And President Obama we want one thing: Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. That’s what we’re going to tell him. He’s going to be - and when he sees what we’re doing here he will be inspired. But he needs help and you know what? Everybody here’s got to vote. If we go back and keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these [expletive] out and give America back to America where we belong!”]
Tea party groups called on him to apologize, but Teamsters’ boss Jimmy Hoffa kept to the remarks he made at a Labor Day rally in Detroit on Monday in which he called on workers to “take out” tea party members.
“We didn’t start this war – the right wing did,” Hoffa said in a statement Tuesday. “My comments on Labor Day in Detroit echo the anger and frustration of American workers who are under attack by corporate-funded politicians who want to destroy the middle class. We’re tired of seeing good-paying jobs shipped overseas. This fight is about the economy, it’s about jobs, and it’s about rebuilding America. As I said yesterday in Detroit, we all have to vote in order to take these anti-worker politicians out of office.”
At the Monday rally of 13,000 workers, where President Obama also spoke, Hoffa charged that there was a “war” on organized labor by the tea party, and he called on union members to fight on behalf of the president.
“The one thing about working people is we like a good fight,” Hoffa told the crowd. “And you know what? They’ve got a war, they got a war with us, and there’s only going to be one winner. It’s going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We’re going to win that war.”
Hoffa added: “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. . . .Let’s take these [expletive] out and give America back to an America where we belong.”
Some tea party groups and conservative commentators have decried the remarks as violent and demanded that Hoffa and Obama apologize. Obama, who spoke later in the program, was not on stage during Hoffa’s speech.
Asked about Hoffa’s comments at his daily briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the brouhaha “Kabuki theater.”
“Those weren’t comments by the president,” Carney said.
“I understand there’s a ritual in Washington where someone says something and you link the associations and anyone who has an association with him or her has to avow or disavow. The president wasn’t onstage. He did not speak for another 20 minutes. He didn’t hear it. Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself, speaks for the labor movement.”
Carney mistakenly referred to Hoffa as the head of the AFL-CIO. Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, also spoke at the Labor Day event after Hoffa and before Obama. Trumka has not commented on Hoffa’s remarks.
In the statement, Hoffa said: “We’re fighting back. That’s what Teamsters do – we stand up for what is right. I will never apologize for standing up for my fellow Teamsters and all American workers.”
More on PostPolitics