A fiery speech delivered by James Hoffa at a Detroit Labor Day rally for President Obama sparked criticism from conservative critics who say Hoffa was inciting violence against the tea party. But it appears that a selectively edited version of Hoffa's speech, aired by media outlets including on Fox News and ABC on Monday, helped incite the fury.
During his speech before Obama's appearance, Hoffa called on Teamsters to vote the tea party out of office. "Everybody here has got a vote," Hoffa said. "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."
Hoffa likened union fights to a "war" and a "battle" between union workers and tea partiers, and described union supporters as Obama's "army."
But the clip that aired on Fox News and ABC omitted the call for a vote, taking Hoffa's "take these son-of-a-bitches out" out of context.
"Jimmy Hoffa's remarks are inexcusable and amount to a call for violence on peaceful tea party members, which include many Teamster members," Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer said in a statement calling for Hoffa to apologize and for the White House to denounce his comments. "Lying attacks on the tea party movement have disturbingly increased in recent days. It is high time that elected leaders like President Obama were held accountable when their key supporters engage in harmful and divisive rhetoric."
"Hoffa and his well-funded liberal allies are scared of our momentum, and will do anything to try and silence our voices," Michele Bachmann wrote in an email to 2012 campaign supporters on Monday. "But, we won't go quietly into the night. Will you follow this link and make a donation to help me defend myself against their profane and vicious attacks?"
As Yahoo's Ticket blog noted, several critics compared Hoffa's comments to the type of violent rhetoric President Obama called on both parties to denounce in the wake of the deadly shooting attack at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Tucson, Ariz. town hall event in January.
In one Fox News segment, Brad Blakeman, a Republican consultant, called the comments "thuggery at its best" and compared Hoffa to Tony Soprano. (In an earlier segment, Fox News' Ed Henry put Hoffa's comments in context, explaining to viewers that he was referring to the November election, not violence--and Fox News later aired that part of Hoffa's speech in full. But critics either did not hear that version, or chose to ignore it.)
For his part, Hoffa defended his comments in an interview with Talking Points Memo on Tuesday. "How is [what I said] different than Mitch McConnell saying he wants to take out Barack Obama?" Hoffa asked.
Meanwhile, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz refused to denounce Hoffa's comments during an interview on Fox News Tuesday, accusing the network of failing to express outrage over incendiary remarks made at tea party rallies.
Obama made no direct reference to Hoffa's speech during his own remarks Monday, and the White House had not issued comment on the speech as of early Tuesday afternoon.