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On a weeklong media tour for his new book, Gov. Scott Walker has blamed union leaders for massive protests over his curbs on collective bargaining, cautioned Republicans against relishing Obamacare’s problems and deflected questions about an investigation into Wisconsin recall elections.
Labor leaders "ginned up" teachers to protest in 2011, Walker said on National Public Radio a day after the Nov. 19, 2013, publication of "Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and A Nation’s Challenge."
"The people who were telling them they were under attack were the union leaders because it served their interest," Walker said.
On Obamacare, Republicans can’t "just be the ones pushing it over the cliff," Walker told the National Review.
"Republicans, not only in state office but for federal office as well, we do have to be careful that we don’t look like we’re relishing this," Walker told the publication. "As much as many of us pointed to these problems early on … I think we need to empathize with many of our fellow citizens who are going to suffer because of these failures and try and find solutions …"
PolitiFact Wisconsin rounded up a host of book-tour comments by the GOP governor, who is expected to seek re-election in 2014 as he explores a presidential bid in 2016. Along the way, we’ve noted where Walker made comments similar to ones we have already fact checked.
2016 presidential race
Walker told The Daily Beast voters want bold action based on conservative principles. Republicans don’t need to moderate to appeal to voters, Walker told the news and opinion site.
He put it this way in a promotional email for his book: "We don't need to hedge our beliefs. We can talk like conservatives and act like conservatives and still win elections in battleground states."
On NPR, Walker reiterated his criticism of the 2012 Romney campaign and the Republican message in general.
"They really defacto allowed the other campaign to define the R next to his name as standing for Rich Guy who only cared about guys like him," Walker said of Romney’s campaign.
PolitiFact Wisconsin examined the Walker-Romney rift in September, tracing it to critiques Walker offered publicly to national reporters during the campaign.
The Daily Beast headlined it’s Walker interview piece: "Scott Walker is the Perfect Republican Candidate for 2016 (On Paper)." It said Walker’s big win in taking on unions in Wisconsin, and handily winning a recall election, positions him well.
But the story added: "The governor, who has the kind of fleshy face and imperfect teeth that no Romney would be caught out of the house with, speaks in the flat Wisconsin twang familiar to hockey announcers and Fargo, stumbling over his own words as he goes."
Speaking to reporters in New York City, Walker said one reason that the next Republican presidential nominee should be a governor or former governor is that such a candidate would defeat Hillary Clinton:
"I think if we're going to take on Hillary Clinton in the next election, we need somebody who's as far removed from Washington," Walker said, at the New York Meeting in Manhattan. "Because Hillary Clinton wasn't just secretary of state, wasn't just a U.S. senator, wasn't just the first lady. She's been a product of Washington for decades."
Previously, Walker had said that if re-elected as governor in 2014, he would not commit to serving out a full term. But he insisted this week in the National Review interview that winning re-election as governor does not guarantee that he would run for president.
"No, I’m focused on being governor," Walker told National Review. "I honestly -- and -- and I don’t know what the future holds. For me, there’s a lot of challenges in my state that still need my attention, still need my focus."
Walker told Newsmax TV, a conservative-leaning web site: "I’m really very committed to being governor in the state of Wisconsin. I think I can do a lot there and I can have an impact not only on my state but on reforms across the country. Without a doubt, in the future I’m going to focus on helping move our country forward."
He added: "I’ve never ruled anything out. In my case, though, I’m focused on being governor."
Protests over collective bargaining
Walker told a Breitbart News executive that he considered the union protests against his policies a "precursor to the Occupy movement." The interview was with the Sirius XM Patriots Forum.
"Walker spoke of the strength of prayer during that turbulent time, finding power in the reading of Bible verses and embracing those supporters who spoke openly of their faith to him," a Breitbart story about the interview said.
On MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," show, Walker said "one of my most embarrassing moments" was the crank call from a liberal blogger posing as Walker supporter and conservative political powerhouse David Koch. I "sounded full of myself," Walker said of remarks to the fake Koch captured on the audio tape that came out of the conversation.
Walker said a devotional he read later that day reminded him of the "power of humility and the burden of pride." Walker said he remarked, "I hear you God."
(Walker said the day after the February 2011 phone call that what he said on the call were things he’d said publicly all along. We rated that claim False, pointing out that the call included revelations about strategy, tactics and Walker’s view of his actions in connection with his bill to curb collective bargaining rights of government workers.)
Walker appeared to try to clarify reporters’ belief that he supports a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in America illegally. That belief took hold in July 2013 when Walker told the Wausau Daily Herald editorial board "it makes sense" to allow citizenship to undocumented workers here given the right penalties and waiting periods.
(We noted in an August 2013 piece on immigration that Walker said he wasn’t endorsing a particular policy or bill.)
This week, Walker corrected reporter Sam Stein on "Morning Joe" when Stein said Walker had "endorsed something like a pathway to citizenship."
"I talked about fixing the legal immigration system, not going beyond that," Walker said.
"CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O’Donnell said to Walker: "You have said you support a pathway to citizenship. Do you think the next (presidential) nominee for the Republican Party has to back a pathway for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country?"
"Ah, but see there’s the difference," Walker responded. "I talk about a legal pathway towards it, not amnesty, not the legislation that they’re talking about in Washington. To me -- what we talk about with the debate in Washington, is just addressing the symptom, not the overall problem. The bigger problem is we don’t have a legal immigration system. I think we ought to fix the front door."
John Doe investigation
Fox talk show host Sean Hannity asked Walker about a John Doe criminal investigation that sources told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is looking at whether conservative groups coordinated illegally with GOP candidates or others during the 2011 and 2012 recall races. Walker’s campaign has been subpoenaed for records, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Does this sound like what they did to Tea Party groups etc., conservative groups?" Hannity asked.
"You know, I don’t know," Walker responded. "Most of this was the first time I read about it on Saturday over the weekend, although it's never dull in Wisconsin, as you know, particularly around election time. And so we'll leave it up to the people who have the insights on that to speculate. But it never is dull in Wisconsin, that's for sure. He made similar comments to Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs.
In an interview with The Hill, Walker said "there’s no reason for me to comment on it. There’s only two ways — if someone’s been directly involved, they legally can’t comment on it, and if they haven’t been involved, they don’t know what’s going on."
Walker said on "Morning Joe" that he and author Marc Theissen put the book together by meeting on Skype from about 6 to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays for six or seven months.
Asked if the book distracts him from governing, Walker told Gannett Wisconsin Media its November publication comes during a down time before a special legislative session in December.
Walker says in promotional emails that "Unintimidated" reveals "what really happened over the past few years, without the distortions of the liberal media."
The state Democratic Party, not surprisingly, had a different take, calling Walker’s book tour "a week-long campaign to whitewash his failures."
PolitiFact Wisconsin examined multiple statements made in the book, finding their accuracy mixed.
Finally, in an interview that can honestly be called wide ranging, Buzz Feed asked Walker about Guantanamo Bay and water boarding -- he declined to engage on both subjects -- and singer Miley Cyrus’ racy performance on the Video Music Awards in August 2013.
"I don’t come at it from a purity standpoint or a religious standpoint," Walker said, before dismissing the stunt as a "cynical attempt to get media interest."
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National Public Radio, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 20, 2013
National Review, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 20, 2013
Daily Beast, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 20, 2013
CapitalNew York.com, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 19, 2013
Breitbart.com, "Gov. Scott Walker talks Wisconsin recall battle," Nov. 19, 2013
MSNBC, "Morning Joe" Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 20, 2013
CBS, "CBS This Morning" Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 18, 2013
Fox, "Hannity" Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 19, 2013
Fox Business, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 20, 2013
The Hill, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 20, 2013
Gannett Wisconsin Media, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 20, 2013
Buzz Feed, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 21, 2013
Newsmax TV, Gov. Scott Walker interview, Nov. 19, 2013