Senior White House Advisor Responds To Congressional Inquiry Over 2009 Joke

ABC News’ Mary Bruce ( @marykbruce ) and Jake Tapper ( @JakeTapper ) report:

Senior White House advisor and former car czar Ron Bloom responded today to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s inquiry into whether Bloom joked at a bar in 2009 that he worked on the auto bailout to help unions, saying he does not recall making the statement but cannot say with certainty that he did not say it.

The controversy began last week when Rep. Issa, R-Calif, and two fellow Republicans asked Bloom to “clarify” his recent testimony before the committee during a hearing on the General Motors bailout.

In 2009 Bloom, the current Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy, played a key role in the process that led to the reorganization of General Motors and Chrysler and worked closely with the companies, lenders and the union when he served as a Senior Advisor on the President’s Task Force on the Automotive Industry.

In Overhaul, the book by Steven Rattner, Bloom’s former boss on the Auto Task Force, Rattner wrote the following description of a celebratory dinner: “I thanked my colleagues for the enormous sacrifices that each had made. ‘In this deal, in this incarnation,’ I said, ‘you have epitomized what it means to serve your country.’ Fortunately, after I spoke, Ron Bloom was there to lighten the mood. ‘I did this all for the unions!’ he jokingly declared. Everyone laughed and the war stories began to fly.”

At the June hearing, Indiana Republican Rep. Dan Burton asked Bloom if he said at a 2009 farewell party for the administration’s autos team that “I did this all for the unions.”

With an almost inexplicable forcefulness – given that Rattner made it clear that Bloom was joking -- Bloom denied ever making the remark. “I did not say that,” Bloom stated. Pressed again by Burton, Bloom reiterated that “no, sir” he never made the comment.

In a Friday letter obtained by ABC News , Bloom backed off his earlier denial in an effort to appease Issa and the committee.

“I do not recall making the alleged comment that was the subject of Congressman Barton’s inquiry,” Bloom writes. “Nonetheless, given the amount of time that has passed since the dinner in July 2009 and the fact that others may have a different recollection, I cannot say with absolute certainty that I did not make the alleged comment.”

“The overriding objective that guided the Auto Task Force was to bring much needed stability to the crucial sector of our economy, keep hundreds of thousands of Americans working, and give GM and Chrysler a chance to become viable, competitive American businesses. While difficult for all parties involved, I believe that in the end this objective was achieved in a fair and reasonable manner. I can assure you that the comment attributed to me is not reflective of my view,” he writes.

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