WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) backed away from calling the Occupy Wall Street protesters "mobs" on Sunday, but he doubled-down on going after the political leaders who have condoned the movement.
At the conservative Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., last week, Cantor said he was "increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country."
"And believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans. But you sent us here to fight for you and all Americans," he added.
On Sunday, "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace asked Cantor about those comments: "Congressman, do you stand by that comment about mobs? And what do you think about the effort by the Obama White House and Democrats trying to harness the energy and movement here as part of their re-election effort?"
Cantor immediately moved away from his comment about the "mobs," saying, "More important than my use of the word is that there is a growing frustration out there across the country and it is warranted. Too many people are out of work."
He then jumped to criticizing political leaders who have embraced the movement, saying it was wrong to blame Wall Street for the country's economic problems.
"Where I am most concerned is we have elected leaders in this town who are frankly joining in the effort to blame others rather than focus on the policies that have brought about the current situation," he said. "I mean, when you hear of the Democrat elected leaders joining in, blaming parts of our economy and society, versus 'let's take some of the credit or blame here in Washington.' These are policies they put in place, and a lot can be done here in this town to turn the economy around and promote income mobility, and not go in and excoriate some who have been successful. We want success for everybody."
Cantor and the Tea Parties have repeatedly blamed Democrats for the country's problems, presumably exempting them as "parts of our economy and society." Cantor, an enthusiastic supporter of the Tea Parties, told an audience at the 2009 Values Voter Summit that the growing movement was "fighting on the fighting lines of what we know is a battle for our democracy."
"People are beginning to wake up and see a country they don’t really recognize," said Cantor.
When asked about this distinction by reporters this past week, Cantor responded that the Tea Parties were different because their ire was directed at Washington, at "the government and its policies."
"The Tea Party were individuals that were attempting to address their grievances, seeking redress of their grievances, from the government they elected," he said. "It's different, from what I see, of the protesters on Wall Street and elsewhere, that are pitting themselves against others outside of government in America. That's the difference."
"And do you not see the government as representing the people?" asked Politico's David Rogers.
"Sure," said Cantor, "it's of the people. But we're in elected positions and trying to solve problems. I don't believe that our role is to inflame a division between different parts and sectors of --"
When Rogers tried to follow up and said, "I'm not asking about that," the press briefing abruptly ended.
Cantor is one of several Republicans who have been slightly changing their tune on Occupy Wall Street in recent days, as noted by ThinkProgress.
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that President Obama and his team have "decided to turn public anger at Wall Street into a central tenet of their reelection strategy."
“We intend to make it one of the central elements of the campaign next year,” said Obama senior adviser David Plouffe. “One of the main elements of the contrast will be that the president passed Wall Street reform, and our opponent and the other party want to repeal it.”
On ABC News' "This Week," Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said he predicted the issue would hurt Republicans in the 2012 elections.
"Obviously I don't think any American is impressed when they see Governor Romney and all the Republican candidates say the first thing they'd do is roll back Wall Street reforms, and go back to where we were before the crisis, and let Wall Street write its own rules," Axelrod said. "I think that will be an issue in this campaign."
This story was updated with Axelrod's comments on ABC.
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