White House chief of staff Jeff Zients called Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday morning to apologize for a statement issued by the Democratic National Committee’s press secretary that mocked Hutchinson’s withdrawal from the presidential race.
The statement came after the former Arkansas governor dropped out of the 2024 presidential race following his sixth-place finish in the Iowa Republican caucuses. It read: “This news comes as a shock to those of us who could’ve sworn he had already dropped out.”
President Joe Biden has a “deep respect” for Hutchinson, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during Wednesday’s press briefing, “and admires the race that he ran.”
“This morning, the chief of staff here, Jeff Zients, called the governor to convey this and apologized for the statement that did not that did not represent the president’s views,” she said.
Hours after the call, Hutchinson told CNN that while he didn’t “pay much attention” to the DNC’s statement, he appreciated Zients reaching out to him.
“He apologized and it meant a lot to me, and to me that reflects the good parts of American politics,” the former governor told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” “You fight hard but then, at the end of the day, you want to make sure you treat each other with respect.
The DNC statement was seen as unnecessarily flippant by Democrats who appreciated Hutchinson for his criticism of former President Donald Trump’s involvement in the January 6, 2021, insurrection, and his refusal during a Republican debate to support Trump if he were to be convicted in any of the four criminal cases he’s currently facing.
Hutchinson did not raise his hand when a moderator asked during an August debate whether the Republican presidential candidates would support Trump if he were to be convicted.
“My message of being a principled Republican with experience and telling the truth about the current front-runner did not sell in Iowa,” Hutchinson said in a statement Tuesday. “I stand by the campaign I ran.”
When asked by CNN’s MJ Lee if there was anything communicated to the DNC, Jean-Pierre said she “can’t speak” to any communication with the committee. Jean-Pierre did reiterate that the president felt that the DNC statement did not “represent his views.”
“What I can say is how the president felt it did not represent his views. We apologize to the governor. (Biden) respects the governor’s public service and we just wanted to make that very clear,” Jean-Pierre told reporters.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Kaanita Iyer contributed to this report.
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