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James Hoffa's Tea Party Comment Fuels Republican Fundraising Effort

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JAMES HOFFA
AP

WASHINGTON -- The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is raising money off of a labor leader's remarks telling union members to go out and defeat Tea Party candidates.

"We've got to keep an eye on the battle that we face -- a war on workers. And you see it everywhere. It is the Tea Party," said Teamsters President James Hoffa at a Labor Day event with President Obama. "And there's only one way to beat and win that war -- the one thing about working people is we like a good fight."

In the part of his remarks that have caused the most controversy, Hoffa used some descriptive language to rally attendees to defeat anti-union candidates: "President Obama, this is your army, we are ready to march. But everybody here's got to vote. If we go back, and keep the eye on the prize, let's take these sons-of-bitches out."

In an email to supporters on Wednesday afternoon entitled "Take us out?" NRSC Executive Director Rich Jesmer called on Obama to condemn Hoffa's comments.

"Upon taking the microphone afterwards, did President Obama condemn this call to violence against Republicans? No. In fact, President Obama did the opposite: he praised Mr. Hoffa," read the email. Jesmer continued, "By failing to condemn them, President Obama once again demonstrated a failure of leadership. And President Obama knows this."

The NRSC has posted an online petition for apology on the matter, which is approaching 6,000 signatures.

Jesmer's email also asked Republicans to donate $20.12 to the NRSC.

Hoffa's comments have infuriated the right. Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips recently called on Obama to condemn his "hateful rhetoric" and "call out Hoffa and other union leaders for attacking their fellow Americans in this way, regardless of disagreements on how best to help our great nation."

Fox News' Ed Henry, who reported on the comments, said that Hoffa was referring to taking Republicans out at the ballot box -- not actually threatening physical violence.

On the matter of whether Hoffa was directing his remarks at Republicans or the Tea Party specifically, NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh said it was "irrelevant," because they were "clearly directed to any American who dares to stand up to President Obama's liberal big government agenda."

"But if the Obama White House would like to help clarify what exactly Hoffa meant, instead of throwing up their arms and pleading ignorance, than we're all ears," he said.

Hoffa has stood by his remarks and is refusing to apologize.

"We didn't start this war -- the right wing did," he said in a statement on Tuesday. "My comments on Labor Day in Detroit echo the anger and frustration of American workers who are under attack by corporate-funded politicians who want to destroy the middle class. We're tired of seeing good-paying jobs shipped overseas. This fight is about the economy, it's about jobs and it's about rebuilding America. As I said yesterday in Detroit, we all have to vote in order to take these anti-worker politicians out of office."

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