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Boehner, White House Spar Over 'Chickenshit' Comment

Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2011. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The reported description of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "chickenshit" by a senior administration official has set off a rhetorical exchange between Speaker John A. Boehner and the White House.  

That unnamed official was quoted by The Atlantic as having said, "The thing about Bibi is, he's a chickenshit."  

"I am tired of the administration’s apology tour.  The president sets the tone for his administration. He either condones the profanity and disrespect used by the most senior members of his administration, or he does not," Boehner said in a statement Wednesday. "It is time for him to get his house in order and tell the people that can’t muster professionalism that it is time to move on.”  

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Boehner has had previous "salty" word choices of his own.  

"It's an interesting observation by the speaker of the House who, you all know, has a penchant for using some pretty salty language himself. So, it's a little rich to have a lecture about profanity from the speaker of the House," Earnest said, referring to reported comments Boehner made about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., during the fiscal cliff battle.  

Earnest disavowed the remark in question.  

"The fact is that comments like that do not reflect the administration's view, and we do believe that they are counterproductive. The prime minister and the president have forged an effective partnership. They consult closely and frequently, and did so as recently as this month here at the White House in the Oval Office," Earnest said. "That close relationship does not mean that we paper over our differences. The fact is the United States has repeatedly made clear our view that settlement activity ... is illegitimate and only serves to complicate efforts to achieve a two-state solution in the region."  

"This is a critically important relationship. The United States is as committed as it has ever been to protecting the security of Israel," Earnest said, highlighting the number of conversations between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.  

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in his own statement the comment could affect the relationship between the two countries.  

"I call on President Obama to firmly repudiate these views and to instruct his staff that such comments are completely unacceptable," the California Republican said. "No ally of the United States is perfect. Nor is any American administration. But responsible Presidents ensure their advisors work through policy differences with our closest partners respectfully and through the appropriate channels. Anonymous insults directed at allied leaders and delivered through the media are unprofessional, disgraceful, and undermine America’s interests by calling into question America’s reliability as a partner."  

On the Senate side, Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona also weighed in.  

"Apparently the Obama Administration does not believe it has enough problems on its hands dealing with America’s enemies in the Middle East — it also wants to insult and alienate our allies. That does nothing but harm to America’s national security interests, and President Obama must put an end to it immediately," Graham and McCain said.  

   

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