Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Friday he didn't recall the specifics of a January 2011 video in which he said he would employ a "divide and conquer" strategy against public employee unions.
"A year and a half ago, I don't remember all of the particulars. We talked about the fact that someone needed to stand up and stand on behalf of the taxpayers," he said Friday when asked about the quote at a campaign stop, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
He also said he had no interest in pursuing right-to-work legislation.
Asked whether the "divide and conquer" quote referred to separating police and firefighter unions from other public employees, Walker repeated that he didn't remember the particulars. (The successful legislation curtailing bargaining rights of most public employees did exempt police and firefighter unions.)
The video in question is part of an upcoming documentary called "As Goes Janesville," which is expected to air on PBS this fall. The film is made by Brad Lichtenstein, who has donated $100 to Walker's June 5 recall opponent, Tom Barrett, and worked on Democratic campaigns. However, he denied releasing the clip, which was shown to reporters, in order to have a "political impact," according to the Journal-Sentinel.
In the exchange, Beloit, Wisc. billionaire Diane Hendricks, who later gave $500,000 to Walker's campaign, asks Walker if Wisconsin can "ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right-to-work [state]? What can we do to help you?"
Walker replies, "Well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill." He continues, "The first step is, we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer."
"So for us the base we've got for that is the fact that we've got -- budgetarily we can't afford not to. If we have collective bargaining agreements in place, there's no way not only the state but local governments can balance things out," he says.
The phrase "divide and conquer" has the potential to shake up the recall election, as it appears to undermine the Wisconsin governor's claim that the collective bargaining bill was done merely for fiscal reasons. However, Walker goes on to talk about the budget. The Barrett campaign seized on the phrase, cutting a 30-second web ad with those words.