Written with Margaret Talev.
Updated at 4 p.m. with Durbin response in sixth paragraph.
The White House and congressional Republicans are disputing the second-ranking Senate Democrat’s contention that an unidentified Republican leader told President Barack Obama during a White House meeting, “I cannot even stand to look at you.”
“My understanding is that — again, from participant in the meeting — that that didn’t happen,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters today, referring to an Oct. 20 post made by Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois on his campaign Facebook page.
In the post, Durbin, Obama’s closest Senate ally and the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, said Republicans “searching for something to say in defense of the disastrous shutdown strategy” would accuse Obama of not working hard enough to engage Republicans.
“But in a ‘negotiation’ meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you,’” Durbin wrote, adding, “What are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who has just said something so disrespectful?”
Pressed on whether a Republican leader said anything similar to what Durbin contended was said, Carney responded, “Not that I’m aware of.”
“Senator Durbin stands by his comments,” Durbin spokesman Max Gleischman said today.
Republicans seized on Carney’s comments, calling on Durbin to apologize.
“Senator Durbin’s accusation is a serious one, and it appears to have been invented out of thin air,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “The senator should disclose who told him this account of events, retract his reckless allegation immediately, and apologize.”