Jon Kyl Walks Back Claim That Obama Is Holding Border Security “Hostage”

Senator Jon Kyl is distancing himself from earlier comments that he made accusing the President of holding border security "hostage."

Earlier this week, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl made this rather startling claim:

On June 18, 2010, Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl told the audience at a North Tempe Tea Party town hall meeting that during a private, one-on-one meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office, the President told him, regarding securing the southern border with Mexico, “The problem is, . . . if we secure the border, then you all won’t have any reason to support ‘comprehensive immigration reform.'” [Audible gasps were heard throughout the audience.] Sen. Kyl continued, “In other words, they’re holding it hostage. They don’t want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with ‘comprehensive immigration reform.'”

Sen. Kyl also said he reminded President Obama that the President and the Congress have an obligation, a duty, to secure the border. I shot the following video of Sen. Kyl while sitting next to the man who asked the question.

You can see video of Kyl’s statement here.

The White House quickly shot back and denied that the conversation Kyl related had ever taken place, but then Kyl’s fellow Arizona Senator, John McCain, said that the same thing had been said to him. Kyl’s and McCain’s statement’s were immediately taken up by conservative bloggers and commentators, with the likes of Charles Krauthammer and Tucker Carlson calling it a dereliction of duty.

Well, now it seems that Kyl is trying to say that he didn’t say what people claim he said:

Kyl, of course, had a small spat with the White House last week over comments he made at a town-hall meeting. Kyl, responding to a voter’s question, detailed a recent one-on-one conversation he had with the president. “They are holding [border security] hostage” over hopes for comprehensive immigration reform, Kyl said at the forum.

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.”

The problem, of course, is that if you go back and watch the video, it’s fairly clear that Kyl was at the very least implying that it was the President himself who was saying that he would not secure the border without a deal on immigration reform. Now, Kyl is saying that he was actually referring to the President’s supporters, a very different thing obviously.More importantly, Kyl clearly spent most of the week allowing the impression to be held by the public that he had been referring directly to the President.

So, is Kyl a jerk who was pretty much lying about what the President said to him, or is he a political opportunist trying to heal a rift with the White House ?

I’ll leave that for the readers to decide themselves.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JKB says:

    He’s probably trying some damage control. A provocative statement it was but all the more when you juxtapose it with the fact that last week everal federal agencies posted warnings against Americans traveling south if Interstate 8.

    Some federally controlled areas were closed to citizens altogether as being to dangerous due to human and narcotic smugglers.

    So this crisis the Obamatons hoped to provoke immigration reform turns out to be ceding contiguous US territory to foreign invaders. That’s not an immigration issue but a question of whether the federal government is competent to meet their constitutional duty of defending the nation. Jan Brewer just released a video with her standing next to one of the signs 80 miles north of the international border. The DMZ in Korea isn’t 80 miles wide.

  2. G.A.Phillips says:

    I heard Kyl say it was true again on a radio show.

    I’ll go with
    (political opportunist trying to heal a rift with the White House) 🙁


  3. Herb says:

    Republicans from Arizona have lost the ability to accurately assess, describe, or deal with the problem of illegal immigration. There is too much incentive for these politicians to keep lying to their constituents.

  4. And how is that different than Democrats from Arizona?

  5. JKB says:

    Republicans from Arizona have lost the ability to accurately assess, describe, or deal with the problem of illegal immigration.

    That’s why the federal government has put up signs (see my comment above). To accurately inform the people of Arizona about the problem of illegal immigration, i.e., a good portion of the state is to dangerous to travel due to smuggling across the border.

    Whether by intention or de facto, the fact is the federal government is not securing the homeland. The question about the Department of Homeland Security is has any department failed so dramatically, so often, in so diverse of contexts, in such a short time since its inception?

  6. Herb says:

    “And how is that different than Democrats from Arizona?”

    Sorry, Charlie, but who cares? Can’t the Democrats suck all by themselves on an island of suck? Why do Republicans also have to join them?

    “That’s why the federal government has put up signs (see my comment above). To accurately inform the people of Arizona about the problem of illegal immigration, i.e.,”

    And yet, JKB, the signs warn people about smugglers…. And you have to temerity to say they’re “accurately informing the people of Arizona about the problem of illegal immigration?” C’mon, dude.

    Drug smuggling is not “illegal immigration.” Oh they may cross the border illegally, and they may be foreigners, but in order to qualify as an illegal immigrant you kind of have to…you know, immigrate first.

    So there goes accurate…..

    Best to stick to the human smugglers, because that’s at least related to immigration.

  7. Trashcup says:

    Kyl is an opportunist trying to turn an immigration problem to his political advantage. He was Arizona’s Representative from 1987 to 1995 and he’s been a Senator for Arizona since 1995.

    EIGHTEEN years in Congress and NOTHING accomplished about illegal immigrants.

    Now he gets all puffy about a STATE law? Who is this guy trying to kid? Just using the system to his advantage so he can gain politically.