Hoffa and the fainting couch

It appears that one of the day’s biggest political stories yesterday, at least on the right, had to do with a Labor Day speech Teamsters President James Hoffa Jr. delivered in Detroit. This has “manufactured outrage” written all over it, but given all the attention it received, let’s take a moment to highlight reality.

Here’s the quote from the speech that conservatives pushed aggressively:

“Let’s take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong! Thank you very much!”

And here’s the context of the quote:

“Everybody here’s got to vote. If we go back and keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong! Thank you very much!”

In other words, he was talking about voting. This was not a call to violence — Hoffa wants to take the far-right politicians out of office, not out of existence.

The right almost certainly realizes this, and is making a fuss just to make a fuss. Fox News, in particular, just about threw a fit over the notion that Hoffa was recommending violence against Tea Partiers. A paid CNN analyst, meanwhile, said that if President Obama “doesn’t condemn” the comments, “he is sanctioning violence.”

This is all pretty silly. If the right is comfortable with Rick Perry’s comments about Ben Bernanke, and Sarah Palin’s “reload” cliche, and Mitt Romney talking about “hanging” Obama, I think conservatives can probably stop clutching the pearls over Hoffa’s line about voting.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.