Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday night he doesn’t believe President Barack Obama “loves America,” according to a report
“I do not believe – and I know this is a horrible thing to say – but I do not believe that the president loves America,” said Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and one-time presidential contender, according to Politico. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
Giuliani made the remarks Wednesday during a private dinner event at the upscale 21 Club in Manhattan that featured Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is closely considering a presidential bid.
Giuliani added that he would support a presidential candidate who will express the notion that the U.S. is “the most exceptional country in the world.”
“And if it’s you Scott, I’ll endorse you,” he added, sitting a few seats away from Walker. “And if it’s somebody else, I’ll support somebody else.”
Walker refused to say whether he agreed with Giuliani’s comments in an interview Thursday with CNBC.
“Yeah, I mean, the mayor can speak for himself. I’m not going to comment on whether, what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself. I’ll tell you I love America, and I think there are plenty of people Democrat, Republican, independent and everybody in between who love this country,” Walker said, adding that he was “used to people saying things that are a little aggressive” in New York.
Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, defended his opponent, then-Sen. Barack Obama, when supporters accused Obama of being an Arab. McCain refused to give in to the crowd’s jeers at a 2008 rally, insisting Obama was “a decent family man [and] citizen.”
White House press secretary Eric Schultz pointed out that Giuliani “test ran” a similar attack when he ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, but that he would “leave it to those at the dinner to assess whether or not [his remarks] were appropriate.”
“He seems embarrassed enough to be doing damage control this morning, so I’m not going to pile on from here,” Earnest said. “But I will say that I agree with him on one thing he said today which is that it was a horrible thing to say”
And later Thursday the White House tweeted using the hashtag “#ObamaLovesAmerica”
Giuliani clarified Thursday on Fox News that he was “not questioning [Obama’s] patriotism.”
“He’s a patriot, I’m sure,” Giuliani said. “What I’m saying is, in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear him say the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things that I used to hear Bill Clinton say about how much he loves America.”
Giuliani added that he hears Obama “criticize America much more often than other American presidents” and that he sounds “like he’s more of a critic than he is a supporter.”
“You can be a patriotic American and be a critic, but then you’re not expressing that kind of love that we’re used to from a president,” Giuliani said.
Walker’s office and Giuliani’s office did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pounced on the remarks Thursday and called on Republicans to “say enough” – with a special shout out for the GOP’s top presidential contenders.
“One of the GOP frontrunners was sitting feet away and didn’t say a word. If the Republican Party really wants to be taken seriously, really wants to avoid its problems of the past, now is the time for its leaders to stop this kind of nonsense. Enough,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, now it is your turn. Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, stand up and say enough.”
The DNC chair added that while she “rarely agreed” with President George W. Bush, she “never questioned his love of country.”
“I don’t often agree with my Republican colleagues on the Hill, but I know they love America. Is this what it has really come to? Really?” Wasserman Schultz said.
Walker, meanwhile, honed in on the flaws of Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign on Wednesday night as he addressed the audience of GOP elites, business leaders and academics.
“The big thing I thought Mitt Romney’s campaign missed more than anything was we already knew the narrative that the economy was failing, and that there was a compelling case to get rid of the president,” Walker said according to the New York Daily News. “What we never heard — or at least didn’t hear very clearly — was why Mitt Romney would be a better alternative.”
Dan Merica contributed to this report.