James P. Hoffa (Photo: Jim Wallace, Smithsonian Institution)
When the leader of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters declares of tea partiers that it’s time to “take these sons of bitches out,” one union watchdog warns, it should be taken as more than just ranting rhetoric.
“Considering the history of violence within the Teamsters union, it’s not surprising that Jimmy Hoffa Jr. would say of the tea party that he and his union members need to ‘take these son of a bitches out,’” declared Rick Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts, or CUF, adding that “it shouldn’t be considered an idle threat, either.”
Hoffa made the comments at a rally in Michigan yesterday, in a speech leading up to an appearance by President Barack Obama. Hoffa declared that there is a “war on workers” being perpetrated by the tea party:
“President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march,” Hoffa added. “Let’s take these son of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.”
Video of the Teamsters president’s comments can be seen below:
Since its founding in 1903, Teamsters has accumulated a checkered past of crime: bribery, embezzlement, extortion, labor rackets, beatings, vandalism and even bombings – as well as its ties to organized crime, particularly in the 1950s and ’60s, which led to a pair of congressional investigations.
“Four of the last eight Teamsters presidents have been indicted. There have been 43 guilty pleas and 22 officials sentenced for various crimes,” added the CUF, a non-profit, union-watchdog organization supported by both businesses and union members. “An examination of Unfair Labor Practices filed against the union shows why it’s fair to be concerned about such inflammatory rhetoric from a Teamsters official: There have been over 300 allegations of threatening statements filed with the National Labor Relations Board against the Teamsters and its locals, and more than 200 allegations of coercion.”
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was among several voices condemning Hoffa’s comments and questioning his depiction of tea partiers, posting on her Facebook page that the Teamsters president’s comments amount to “union boss thuggery.”
“Union bosses like this do not have your best interests at heart. What they care about is their own power and re-electing their friend Barack Obama so he will take care of them to the detriment of everyone else,” Palin wrote. “So now these union bosses are desperately trying to cast the grassroots tea-party movement as being ‘against the working man.’ How outrageously wrong this unapologetic Jim Hoffa is, for the [tea party] is the real movement for working class men and women.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., founder of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, concurred on the cause of Hoffa’s ire with the tea party, writing in an email to supporters, “Hoffa and his well-funded liberal allies are scared of our momentum and will do anything to try and silence our voices.”
Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said the comments were “disgraceful” and called on President Obama and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., to denounce the remarks.
“This is essentially calling for violence,” Kremer said on CNN’s Newsroom. “Anybody that says let’s ‘take out these SOBs,’ that is absurd and not the language we should be using when we’re having these conversations.”
Wasserman Shultz, however, dismissed the controversy as an argument over “language.”
“I know you’d like to focus on language … that’s not what the American people are focused on,” Wasserman Schultz told host Gretchen Carlson on “Fox and Friends.”
When pressed for a response, Wasserman Schultz scoffed, “Really, Gretchen? How many times have you called out coarse language at tea-party rallies?”
Hoffa is standing by his comment, telling the blog Talking Points Memo that he’d say it again because “they declared war on us. We’re fighting back.”
“It’s not surprising that President Obama and other Democratic Party officials would refuse to condemn Hoffa’s threats,” CUF Director Berman continued. “The Teamsters have donated $18.5 million to Democrats federally and another $14.9 million at the state level. If President Obama wants to serve as ‘discourse police’ and call for a ‘new tone’ regarding politics, the least he could do is refuse to share the stage with a man who thinks it’s civil to argue in favor of ‘taking out’ one’s political opponents.”
New York Magazine’s John Heilemann also noted an alleged double standard on violent rhetoric, urging Obama to call Hoffa out:
“If this same thing had been said by a member of the tea party a month before Gabrielle Giffords got shot, people would’ve rightly pointed it out as the kind of language that could have incited a crazy person to shoot Gabrielle Giffords,” Heilemann writes. “So, in this instance, I think people who believe that there should be a more civil tone to our discourse, on both sides, should call it out, including the president.”
Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips added in a message on his group’s website, “We need to call them out on this. There is a myth that the tea party is the source of the heated rhetoric.”
Obama, who spoke after Hoffa, didn’t take the opportunity to counter the hostile talk, but instead told the Michigan audience he was “proud” of Hoffa and other labor leaders.
Vice President Joe Biden also appeared at a labor union rally yesterday, but only continued the charged rhetoric, telling the AFL-CIO in Cincinatti that “the other side” is a group of “barbarians” who had “declared war” on unions: