early and awkward

Unraveling the Ongoing ‘I Cannot Even Stand to Look at You’ Mystery

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) leaves Speaker Boehner's office after a meeting amongst Republican House leadership at the Capitol Building on October 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. The government has been shut down for 14 days.
“I cannot handstand or cook a stew.” Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Illinois senator Dick Durbin started a Whole Big Thing earlier this week when he revealed on Facebook that an unnamed Republican congressman had told President Obama during a budget negotiation, “I cannot even stand to look at you.” Which is not only incredibly rude, but also just kind of bizarre. “I cannot even stand to look at you” is the kind of thing you say to a roommate you caught in the kitchen masturbating to a Rachel Ray cookbook, not to a president who disagrees with you about the budget. 

While Durbin stands by his claim, both White House spokesman Jay Carney and Speaker of the House John Boehner have denied that such an incident ever took place. “Senator Durbin’s accusation is a serious one, and it appears to have been invented out of thin air,” Boehner’s spokesman said yesterday

Well, not thin air, it turns out: The Huffington Post reports today that the congressman who has difficulty looking at the president is none other than Texas’s Pete Sessions (who, you may recall, is not French). This is according to two senators who heard it from Harry Reid, who heard it from a White House aide who was actually at the fateful meeting. So, mystery solved? No. Mystery not solved. 

We still have Durbin and Reid and the anonymous White House aide claiming that this incident happened, and Carney and Boehner (and Sessions) claiming it didn’t. Did it happen or not?

A senior White House official told HuffPost on Thursday that the conflicting stories about what happened came down to a miscommunication.

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,” the official said in a statement.

The official did not immediately respond to a request for clarification about what the original White House readout to Democrats said.

Looks like what we have here is a classic example of the Telephone Game phenomenon. What Sessions really said was, “I cannot find that Pikachu,” referring to the popular Pokémon video-game series. 

‘I Cannot Stand to Look at You’ Mystery Solved?