The White House spokesman has denied outright an incendiary claim from the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin, that a GOP leader during the shutdown negotiations said to President Obama, “I cannot even stand to look at you.”
“It did not happen,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said when questioned about the incident. In a statement to TIME, Durbin’s spokesperson Max Gleischman said, “Senator Durbin stands by his comments.”
Both House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor challenged Durbin’s claim. “The senator should disclose who told him this account of events, retract his reckless allegation immediately, and apologize,” said Boehner spokesperson Brendan Buck.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin made the claim in a Facebook post Sunday. “Many Republicans searching for something to say in defense of the disastrous shutdown strategy will say President Obama just doesn’t try hard enough to communicate with Republicans,” Durbin wrote. “But in a ‘negotiation’ meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you.’”
Obama met with Republican House leaders on numerous occasions during negotiations to end the shutdown, though it was not clear when Durbin might have been present to witness the alleged exchange, or if he had another second-hand source for the information.