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The disputed story - first shared publicly on his campaign Facebook page by the Senate’s number two Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois - that an unidentified senior House Republican leader during negotiations over the debt ceiling and partial government shutdown told President Obama, “I cannot even stand to look at you,” made its way from the White House to the Senate via White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, sources tell CNN.
Nabors told the story to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Durbin, and the two other Senate Democratic leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, on Tuesday October 15, sources tell CNN. Reid then told the story to the entire Senate Democratic caucus, sources in the room at the time tell CNN, identifying the House Republican leader as Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who denies the story. Durbin posted it on his campaign Facebook page without mentioning Sessions' name.
Sessions isn’t the only one who denies it; on Wednesday White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked about it at his daily briefing and said, “I looked into it and spoke with somebody who was in the meeting and it did not happen.”
The statement upset Senate Democrats, since they had heard the story from the White House’s Nabors and the White House was now accusing Durbin of sharing an untruthful story. Durbin did not back down. “Senator Durbin stands by his comments,” said Max Gleischman, a spokesman for Durbin, on Wednesday.
On Thursday a White House official accepted some blame for the story, saying, “While the quote attributed to a Republican lawmaker in the House GOP meeting with the President is not accurate, there was a miscommunication when the White House read out that meeting to Senate Democrats, and we regret the misunderstanding.”
Senior administration officials tell CNN that according to senior White House officials in the room, Sessions in the meeting was expressing frustration with the situation, not with President Obama.
White House officials would not comment on whether Nabors misunderstood what Sessions said, or whether he just communicated the story to Senate Democrats in a less than optimal way. Nabors could not be reached for comment.