WH: Durbin story ‘did not happen’

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday flatly denied that a House Republican told President Obama “I cannot even stand to look at you” during negotiations over the government shutdown.

"It did not happen," Carney said, adding that he discussed the incident with a "participant in the meeting."

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinPuerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Funding boost for TSA sails through committee Senate panel passes 4.5B defense bill MORE (D-Ill.), who is a member of Democratic leadership, said in a Facebook post that the alleged confrontation happened during a meeting between Republicans and the president.

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"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 said. "But in a 'negotiation' meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: 'I cannot even stand to look at you.' "

"What are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who has just said something so disrespectful?" the Illinois Democrat added.

House GOP leaders on Wednesday denied that anyone made such a remark to Obama.

Asked on Wednesday whether Durbin's account was true, Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return MORE (R-Ohio) simply said, "no."

A spokesman for BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return MORE said Durbin’s accusation “appears to have been invented out of thin air.”

“The senator should disclose who told him this account of events, retract his reckless allegation immediately, and apologize,” Brendan Buck said.

A spokesman for Durbin said the senator would not retract his story.

"Sen. Durbin stands by his comments," said spokesman Max Gleischman.

The battle over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling inflamed tensions between Obama and congressional leaders. But the insult to Obama that Durbin alleges — if true — would seem to take that rancor to another level.

House GOP whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) called it "crazy" that Durbin would make such an allegation because he "wasn't even at the meeting" that House Republicans had with Obama about ending the government shutdown.

Carney said he did not know if anyone from the White House had reached out to the Illinois Democrat to discuss his allegation.

A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Durbin's "credibility is waning.”

"Senator Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, is at the crux of the partisan divide in Washington. How can voters trust anything this man says?" said NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen.

— This story was last updated at 4:33 p.m.

Molly K. Hooper contributed. 

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