White House Calls Use of the Word 'Terrorists' to Describe Tea Partyers 'Inappropriate' and 'the Product of An Emotional Discussion'

Given the presence of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., at Congress last night – and President Obama’s January 12 speech to the nation about the need for “more civility in our public discourse” – the White House has faced questions in the last day about Vice President Biden’s possible behind-closed-doors use of the word “terrorists” to describe Tea Partyers.

As we covered yesterday, meeting with anxious House Democrats yesterday, the Vice President heard from Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., who said “the Tea Party acted like terrorists in threatening to blow up the economy.”

Doyle used the term several times. What happened next is in dispute. Several sources told Politico that the Vice President responded by saying, “they have acted like terrorists.”

Other sources told ABC News that the vice president said something along the lines of “if they have acted like terrorists, we’re taking the nuclear weapon away from them.”

The Vice President told CBS News’ Scott Pelley, "I did not use the terrorism word…What happened was there were some people who said they felt like they were being held hostage by terrorists. I never said that they were terrorists or weren't terrorists, I just let them vent. I said, ‘Even if that were the case, what's been happening when you now have taken and paid the debt and move that down so we can now discuss, the nuclear weapon's been taken out of anyone's hands.’"

One reporter today asked White House press secretary Jay Carney about reports that the Veep had used the term, wondering if “the president thinks that's appropriate discourse?”

“No, he doesn't, and neither does the vice president,” Carney said. “And I think the vice president spoke to this and made clear that he didn't say those words, and I think the congressman in question has said that he regrets using them.”

Carney said the use of the word “was a product of an emotional discussion, very passionately held positions in this debate, but that does not mean that it's appropriate. And it's not. The vice president doesn't think so; the president doesn't think so. Any kind of comments like that are simply not conducive to the kind of political discourse that we hope to have.”

-Jake Tapper

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