Sen. Kyl Walks Back Claim That Obama Is Holding The Border "Hostage"

June 25, 2010 3:54 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Sen. Jon Kyl

At a town hall meeting last week, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) implied that President Obama is deliberately refusing to secure the border for political gain.  "I met with the president in the Oval Office, just the two of us," Kyl told the crowd.  "Here's what the president said.  'The problem is,' he said, 'If we secure the border, then you all won't have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform.'  In other words, they're holding it hostage."

The comment sparked outrage in the conservative media, but the White House denied that Obama said anything of the sort.  Now, Kyl is walking back his original allegation.  As reported by the National Review:   

Kyl tells us that the comments were "taken a bit out of context," and that the "they" he was referring to was the Left, "the president's base," and not the administration. "I did not try to start a fight. This meeting happened a month ago and we were talking in the context of his political problems. He was talking about how they think that if we secure the border, you guys [Republicans] won't have the incentive to work on comprehensive immigration reform."

That's a far cry from Kyl's original claim, which pretty clearly implicates Obama.  While the senator's use of the word "they" is ambiguous, he makes it a point to note that this came from the president in a private conversation. 

What's more, Kyl had ample opportunity to clear up any misinterpretation but chose not to. "Senator Kyl stands by his remarks," a spokesman told the New York Times.  Kyl also appeared Wednesday on Fox News — which aggressively touted his accusation — but did not indicate that his comments were being incorrectly reported.