Hoffa's Tea Party Rhetoric Too Violent?

Panel weighs in on Teamsters president's controversial comments


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 6, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JAMES P. HOFFA, TEAMSTERS, PRESIDENT: We've g ot a bunch of people there that don't want the president to succeed, and they are called the Tea Party. In November, we will beat the Tea Party and give this country back to workers and America. Everybody here has got to vote. If we go back, and we keep the eye on the prize, let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president wasn't there. I mean he wasn't onstage. He didn't speak for another 20 minutes. He didn't hear it. Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself. He speaks for the labor movement, AFL/CIO. The president speaks for himself. I speak for the president.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Before the break we asked you, was James Hoffa's call for Teamsters to "take out" Tea Partiers a call for violence or a political metaphor, 93 percent of you said it was a call to violence, seven percent said that it was a metaphor in this unscientific poll.

Today, James Hoffa was asked about that statement. He released a statement saying this, quote, "We didn't start this war, the right wing did. 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...I will never apologize for standing up for my fellow Teamsters and all American workers."

What about this? We're back with the panel. Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Well, I guess I disagree with the 93 percent. We are in a really weird place where the head of the Teamsters can't talk tough. I mean, I guess ex-cons are the only ones left who can still talk like men every now and then.

We would not be in this mess. We would not have this controversy if we did not have this bonfire asininity that came out of the Tucson shootings where all of a sudden Sarah Palin's Facebook congressional map was somehow to blame for not only this madman but for all of the violence overtaking America, and for all I know, listening to some of these people on MSNBC, it was responsible for Lee Harvey Oswald. I mean it was an absolutely bizarre standard that was established that was led by -- that Barack Obama picked up. He created the standard for themselves where any martial metaphor or any tough language like this was automatically, by their own words and their own standards, set up as to be inciting violence and whatnot, and now it's blowing up in their faces, if I'm allowed to say that, and they deserve it.

BAIER: Ok, I mean, here's the quote, Juan, he starts out with "everybody here has got to vote" but then there's the part, "Let's take the son of a bitches out, and give America back to America, where we belong!"

GOLDBERG: It's "sons of" -- it's grammatically incorrect on Hoffa's part. Just for the record.


BAIER: We are correct.

GOLDBERG: We are correct, we quoted him correctly but he was [INAUDIBLE]

BAIER: What do you think of it?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I don't think this kind of language helps in any way. I think it's the kind of language that shuts down real conversation and actually hurts the left as the left goes after Tea Party in terms of substance. You gotta remember the Tea Party's numbers have been falling precipitously in terms of public opinion in this country. Now the Tea Party is able to play the martyred role. They are the ones who are the victims of such vitriol and profane language coming from Hoffa.

And not only that, over the last few weeks you have seen several members of Congress accuse them of racism, slavery, saying that they want to have black people hanging from trees. This is all being said about the Tea Party. And I think it's in fact, made people more sensitive to the idea. You know what, the Tea Party stands for low taxes, small government and all of a sudden they are being assailed and sometimes unfairly assailed and these attacks are being echoed in the mainstream media. So I think, it's in essence, buoying the Tea Party at a moment when they'd otherwise be sinking.

BAIER: But do you think there is a responsibility for anybody to speak out and say I don't agree with that. Either the DNC chair didn't this morning or the White House didn't today. I mean --

WILLIAMS: It wouldn't work. You know why it's just the reason that Hoffa said he won't apologize. Is there is such frustration among left wing Democrats in this country that the Tea Party has been driving so much of the conversation in Washington specifically with debt reduction in mind, they feel they have been silenced. No one hears them. And I think when the whole business about "take them out," that was about defeat them at the polls, was the way I read it.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the only story here, the real story is the cosmic hypocrisy of the Democrats. As Jonah indicated, when we had the shootings in Tucson, all of a sudden, which were obviously the act of a psychotic madman. I remember saying that at the very early hours of the drama. And it was obviously someone -- in fact a court has found -- that the shooter is a paranoid psychotic.

It was obvious at the beginning. And yet for four days there was unrelenting vitriol from the left, some elected representatives, some commentators, comments about how this was caused by the somehow the climate. In fact the front page of the New York Times after, I think, the day after, not an editorial, a reporting story, spoke about the climate which had been created.

It was nonsense from the beginning. I'll remind you that the president even though he spoke about civil discourse at the ceremony a week later, allowed these attacks on the right to go on for four days without saying a word. And it's the president, who, as we saw in the clip, all of a sudden became a champion of civil discourse.

Here is the head of a union, an ally of his, speaking in these terms of taking out the opposition. And remember this is the head of a union with its own history, a man called Hoffa with his own family history. The president as Carney indicated spoke 20 minutes after on the same stage and said nothing. I think the real story is double standards. Civil discourse is a one-way street if you are a Democrat.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for one idea the president may have to kick-start the economy.

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