Updated Dec 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Top Biden aide's "f--ker" quote under fire

Jen O'Malley Dillon
Photo: Andre Chung for the Washington Post via Getty Images

Some advisers close to President-elect Joe Biden are frustrated over a Glamour magazine interview in which incoming White House deputy chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon referred to Republicans on Capitol Hill as "f--kers."

Why it matters: Biden campaigned for the presidency by promising to "restore the soul of America" and not to question the motives of political opponents, whom he insists aren't enemies. Fighting words from a high-level staffer could give Republicans ammunition to cast doubt on Biden's sincerity.

  • After the Electoral College affirmed Biden's victory on Monday, he promised to "turn the page" on the campaign and "heal" the country.
  • Some donors want O'Malley Dillon, his campaign manager, to apologize — to Biden and perhaps to congressional Republicans.

Between the lines: This is one of the first signs of division in a team that's prided itself through the campaign and transition on unity, message discipline and minimal leaks, and is now preparing to govern.

  • "For those of us who, from Day One, bought into Biden's calls for civility and a return to normalcy, this isn't just beyond the pale — it's plain stupid," said one Biden donor.

The other side: "Could she have used a different adjective, sure," said one Biden official. "But if you know Jen ... she is real, she is authentic, she says it how it is."

O'Malley Dillon didn't respond to a request for comment.

  • After Axios sought a response from the transition team, Biden communications director Kate Bedingfield posted a tweet saying that O'Malley Dillon "would be the first to tell you her mom doesn't approve of spicy language" but that "the point she was making ... unity and healing are possible — and we can get things done."

Details: In the interview, O'Malley Dillon also called Senate Majority Mitch McConnell "terrible."

  • But she didn't foreclose the possibility of working with Republicans, and she suggested that Biden won, in part, because of his optimism: "The president-elect was able to connect with people over this sense of unity."
  • On Sunday, she and Mike Donilon, who will serve as a White House counselor, laid out Biden's governing approach, with Donilon saying Biden has "made it clear that he intends to work, if possible, across the aisle."
  • Biden wants to project a message that Republicans aren't bad people and that when Donald Trump departs the scene they may have an "epiphany."

Be smart: Biden confidants don't necessarily disagree with O'Malley Dillon's darker sentiments; they disagree with her decision to say them for public consumption.

  • There is deep skepticism among Democrats that Republicans actually want to work with them, even as Biden genuinely believes that his dealmaking skills can prevail.
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