Gibbs' remark about House draws fire from Pelosi

Speaker fumes after spokesman says, "There are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control"

Published July 14, 2010 8:41PM (EDT)

In spite of criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, President Barack Obama's chief spokesman on Wednesday defended his remark that the party could lose control of the House in this fall's elections. He hastened to add that he doesn't think that will happen. "I don't think I said anything that was politically shocking," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said during his daily briefing with reporters.

Pelosi lashed out over Gibbs' comments when she met privately Tuesday night with House Democrats, saying that lawmakers believed the remarks had damaged their cause, according to an aide who was present. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

Pelosi, D-Calif., assured fellow Democrats that Gibbs couldn't know what was going on in their districts, the aide said.

Asked Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" if the Democratic majority in the House was in jeopardy, Gibbs responded: "I think there is no doubt there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall, but I think there's no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control."

On Wednesday, Gibbs responded tersely to reporters' questions on the matter.

Did he give the GOP an issue? "No."

If he could, would he rephrase his comment if it would make Democrats on the Hill feel better? "Of course."

Had he spoken with Pelosi? "I have not spoken with the speaker."

Would he like to? "If there's an occasion to speak, of course."

Gibbs said Obama hadn't talked to him about his remarks.

In the private meeting, Pelosi asked a White House legislative affairs official, Dan Turton, whether Gibbs was speaking for the White House, and Turton replied by essentially saying Gibbs' comments were unscripted, according to the aide.

Pelosi said she didn't even know Gibbs, according to the aide, although Gibbs said Wednesday that they'd met and had a "cordial" relationship.

By Erica Werner

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2010 Elections Nancy Pelosi D-calif.