A conversation about immigration between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore, reported on by the New York Times this week, never happened.
“We have spoken with Stephen Moore and the conversation that was reported did not happen and he will tell you that. I would recommend you reach out to him,” Walker spokeswoman AshLee Strong told Breitbart News on Thursday in response to an article by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman.
On Thursday, the reporters wrote: “Stephen Moore, a conservative scholar at the Heritage Foundation who backs an immigration overhaul, called Mr. Walker’s embrace of a border-security-first approach ‘A lurch to the right and probably something very popular among Iowa conservative voters.’”
“But Mr. Moore also said he was not convinced that Mr. Walker was quite the immigration hawk as he may appear now,” the Times added. “Rather, he called the governor’s positioning ‘a work in progress.’”
Then the newspaper wrote: “Mr. Moore said he had become concerned about Mr. Walker’s stance [on immigration] in recent weeks, but was reassured after a phone call with the Wisconsin governor,” then quoted Moore himself recounting what Walker supposedly said.
“He said, ‘I’m not going nativist; I’m pro-immigration,’” Moore said Gov. Walker said.
But Walker’s presidential campaign insists that conversation never happened, so Breitbart News reached out to Moore for more information.
Moore confirms that there was no phone call between him and Walker. What actually happened, he says, is a bit more murky and confusing—much different from what the Times says happened.
“Here’s what happened, I’m on this group with Larry Kudlow and Art Laffer called the Committee to Unleash Prosperity,” Moore told Breitbart News.
We had Scott Walker a few months ago for a dinner. So here’s the miscommunication: I didn’t have the conversation with the governor. Larry went down there. We’ve got this group, and Larry had a conversation with Scott Walker on immigration stuff—and what he told me because we all work together is that Scott Walker is still pro-growth. Our whole thing is on growth. We don’t have to worry about him voting for skilled immigrants coming into the country and that kind of thing. I think the whole thing has been kind of taken out of context. From our point of view, Scott Walker is going to be pro-growth on immigration.
But Kudlow, in a phone interview on Friday evening with Breitbart News, said that’s not what happened, either.
“I spoke with Governor Walker, I don’t know, it must have been a month ago,” Kudlow said.
It was in Madison, Wisconsin, as his request. We had a long meeting—several hours—and we discussed several issues across the board. It was a strictly private meeting, the details of which I’ve shared with no one. No one. I want to be very clear about that. It was between the governor and myself. No one. Not Steve Moore. Not the New York Times. Nobody. It was a private conversation and off the record.
But there was no phone call between Moore and Walker about this matter—despite the Times report—Moore confirmed. Moore told Breitbart News:
No, no that didn’t happen. I did not have a conversation with Walker. It was my mistake. I kind of miscommunicated this to this reporter. What I really meant to say is that Larry did. And when Larry had the conversation, we felt that he was going to be just fine and not going to be a problem on immigration. Everybody is kind of making a mountain out of a mole hill here. It was basically just—our objective at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity is to promote policies that will make the American economy grow faster. That’s all we’re about and so that’s all we really talked to the governor about, was what are the policies that make the economy grow faster? And Walker was at the dinner meeting and also at the thing with Larry solid. I’m a big supporter of his.
“I have to talk to the reporter—I have to call him today and say, ‘Look I think you misunderstood what I was saying,’” Moore added. “What I was talking about was based on this meeting that Larry had.”
What really happened, according to Moore, was that Walker had a meeting with Kudlow, not with Moore.
“I was talking to Larry and he reported back to us because I asked, ‘Well how did the meeting go?’ and he said ‘We talked a lot about a lot of issues,’” Moore told Breitbart News. “This was right about the time this immigration issue had sprung up, and Larry was like ‘Oh, he’s going to be with us on immigration.’”
Kudlow told Breitbart News, however, that he told Moore no such things from his conversation with Walker.
“No. That is just not true,” Kudlow said when Breitbart News read Moore’s quote back to him over the phone.
The only thing I might have said to Steve and Art is that I talked to the governor about a lot of issues. I made no definitive statements on taxes, immigration, trade, nothing. Look this was a private meeting. A guy asks you in and it was a private off the record meeting, you keep it private and off the record. The only thing I can confirm is that I probably said to Steve we talked about a lot of issues. Nothing more.
When asked if Walker said in the conversation with Kudlow—the quote Moore told the New York Times,“I’m not going nativist, I’m pro-immigration”— Moore told Breitbart News he’s unsure.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t at that meeting, so I don’t know exactly what he said. I’m sort of saying what Larry Kudlow told me about the meeting,” Moore said.
Kudlow told Breitbart News he will not reveal publicly here–just as he says he has not to anyone else–the details of the conversation with Walker.
“I haven’t done it with anybody and I’m not going to start now,” Kudlow said.
Scott Walker is a friend. I don’t know what Steve was thinking or where he was going with that. But that’s you know—there’s no there there. I can report nothing to you. I’m always helpful to Breitbart. I love Breitbart. In fact, I was one of the first people to put [Andrew] Breitbart on TV many years ago. I help you guys whenever I can. But this is all I can say to you. There’s nothing more there.
This matters, because the biggest and most significant thing Walker has done on his lead up to launching his campaign has been rethinking his position on immigration.
He joined the last two winners of the Iowa Republican caucuses—former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both of whom are running again now—by tapping into strong economic populism that has faded from the Republican Party under the leadership of people like Ryan and his fellow failure and 2012 top-of-the-ticket running mate Mitt Romney. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have also been pushing the party away from the voter base toward the donor class, and Walker has been somewhat caught in the crossfire between the two different camps. At different times on different issues, he’s shown a propensity to side with either or both.
Moore himself has written in favor of looser immigration laws.
“Republicans and conservatives might want to coalesce around a position of tight welfare and generous immigration rules,” Moore, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, wrote in the Journal in 2013. “That is something Milton Friedman would no doubt regard as the ideal outcome. As another late great economist—William Niskanen, a member of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and chairman of the Cato Institute—once put it: ‘Better to build a wall around the welfare state than the country.’”
Despite the fact that he admits not having had a conversation with Walker, Moore insists the governor isn’t simply saying one thing to one side and the public and another to the other behind closed doors.
“I think that’s what he [the Times reporter] was trying to imply—that he’s saying one thing to me, and another thing to other conservative groups,” Moore tells Breitbart News. “I don’t think that’s a fair characterization at all.”
It would certainly help if Walker was more forthcoming—and his team was clearer in answering the questions that come their way—but they’re not. The Times didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.