Appearing On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, Tuesday evening, the legislative director for the American Legion expressed shock and confusion at White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s misrepresentations regarding his organization.
At Monday’s White House press briefing, Carney repeatedly referred to an American Legion statement, which he suggested praised the Obama administration for taking swift action in firing a VA official who was already retiring. ABC News reporter, Jonathan Karl, later reported that the American Legion had put out a statement, Friday, espousing the opposite position – (a scoop that ABC News failed to pick up on for their nightly news report, opting instead to report on “the dangers of germs on airplanes, how Sandra Bullock dances to music every morning, a full story promoting its Dancing With The Stars program, and played a video of a bear rescuing its cub from a highway three times.” Via Newsbusters.)
Van Susteren asked the American Legion official, Louis J. Celli, Jr, what he thought about Carney misrepresenting the American Legion’s stance on the Petzel resignation during Monday’s press briefing.
“We were confused, we were caught off guard, Celli answered. “I mean, I thought that our press release really spoke to the issue. We were very displeased. We didn’t think that this resignation was as genuine as it could have been and there could have been some tougher calls here, so, you know, for the White House to spin that in such a way that made it looked like we agreed with it I just think was disingenuous.”
Asked why he thought Jay Carney would repeat the distortion, nine times, Celli replied, “I don’t know if he misunderstood. I can’t speak for what he was thinking, but I certainly know what the American Legion’s intentions are, and that is, we want to see reform at the top of the VA, we want to see leadership take charge of what’s going on over there, straighten this out immediately.”
Celli suggested that the administration would have made a stronger statement if the VA had forced Petzel to stay and face the music, rather than retire on schedule.
“The American Legion has been a long standing partner with VA over the years and we just want to make sure that it’s run correctly, and calling for the resignation of someone who is getting ready to leave on retirement anyway – it might have been better if they would have said hold on, you are not retiring now, we are going to hold you here until this investigation is done. That might have been a stronger statement,” he said.
Celli went on to note that “what we are finding this is the tip it of the iceberg. When we called for these resignations, we had no idea how deep this went and now as more and more centers come forward, whistle blowers are feeling more comfortable to come out because now they’re feeling like they’re going to be protected, we are seeing this is widespread, a lot more widespread than we had anticipated.”