Outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Sunday bashed conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham for cheapening the debate after she helped fuel a conservative backlash that cost him his seat.
Cantor was fairly placid during his appearance on ABC’s “This Week” and in an earlier interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” but bristled when ABC correspondent asked him about Ingraham.
Cantor zeroed in on Ingraham’s charge that he was “two-faced” and a “phony” on the issue of immigration reform because he touted himself as an opponent of amnesty but also worked on legislation to grant legal status to young illegal immigrants.
Ingraham joked that Cantor should have been traded to the Taliban in exchange for American POW Bowe Bergdahl, who is accused of deserting his combat post in Afghanistan.
“That suggestion that I should have been traded to the Taliban for Sgt. Bergdahl really is not a serious contribution to any public policy debate and frankly I don’t think that it reflects on the people who self-identify as Tea Partiers,” he said on ABC.
“It’s just not serious and frankly it cheapens the debate,” he said.
Ingraham, appearing on ABC later in the hour, retorted that Cantor does not have a sense of humor.
“He can’t take a joke about the prisoner swap. He has no sense of humor, that’s why he lost," Ingraham said.
She also questioned his ability to speak for Tea Party voters since he skipped the first Tea Party convention in his home state.
Ingraham boosted Cantor’s conservative opponent, economics professor Dave Brat, by campaigning for him. She warned conservative voters that the House Republican leadership would hold a vote on immigration reform as soon as five days after the Virginia primary if Cantor won.
She urged voters in Virginia’s 7th congressional district to support Brat and “stop amnesty once and for all.”
Cantor on Sunday rejected Ingraham’s claim that he tried to straddle both sides of the immigration issue.
"My position never wavered. I have always taken the position that I'm not for comprehensive amnesty bill. I've always said that we ought to deal with the kids who did not break any laws ... and came into this country in many cases unbeknownst to them," he said.
Cantor has been working on legislation to grant legal status to illegal immigrants who were brought into the United States as children and have stayed out of legal trouble.
"It's a principled position and it's one I think that offers the only plausible way forward," he said. "Did that infuriate folks on both sides? Sure."