White House press secretary Jay Carney criticized press reports Tuesday that said donors in Boston booed the president when he made a joke about the Red Sox's trade of popular third baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Carney insisted the donors weren't booing President Obama but were offering the traditional Fenway Park cheer for their departing corner infielder, who was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
"Anyone who knows Boston, knows the Red Sox and anyone who was in that room last night knows that the preponderance of people shouting in response to what the president said about Kevin Youkilis were saying ‘Yoooook' and not 'Booo,’ for God’s sake,” Carney said.
From audio of the event, it's not clear whether the crowd actually was booing or saluting the outgoing star — the White House's official transcript shows the president's remarks interrupted by booing — but the exchange did seem to be in good fun, given Obama's needling to the crowd about the trade. Obama, who owns a home in Chicago, is a fan of the White Sox.
Carney later acknowledged in a post on Twitter that some audience members were booing while others were saying "Yooooook."
Youkilis, a popular player on Boston's World Series winning teams, was shipped to Chicago in a deal for relief pitcher Zach Stewart and utility fielder Brent Lillibridge on Sunday.
“Boston, I just want to say — thank you for Youkilis," Obama said, smiling as the crowd reacted.
"I’m just saying. He’s going to have to change the color of his 'sox,' " the president continued, as the audience laughed. "I didn’t think I’d get any boos out of here, but I guess I shouldn’t have brought up baseball. I understand. My mistake. You've got to know your crowd."
A member of the audience then called out, "We still love you," drawing more laughter and applause from the assembled crowd.
But the Romney campaign, sensing a potential gaffe, shot out an email to reporters mocking the president.
"Last night in Boston, President Obama went to the heart of Red Sox nation and committed an error by taunting fans over the Kevin Youkilis trade to the Chicago White Sox," said spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "The Red Sox have suffered many setbacks over the years — the Babe Ruth trade, the ball through Buckner’s legs, the Bucky Dent home run. Maybe the President should have congratulated the team for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007. Instead, he chose to mock them for trading away one of its favorite players at a time when the team is struggling."
Then again, Mitt Romney has not always been the most loyal Boston fan — a fact Carney was likely well aware of in repeatedly mentioning Obama's fidelity to his hometown teams.
At a fundraiser late last year with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, Romney offered a "Go Jets!" cheer from the podium — a sports faux pas for a governor from the state home to the rival New England Patriots.
In defending Obama, Carney derided politicians for abandoning the teams of their youth to appeal to voters.
“I don’t think the American people appreciate it when politicians suddenly pretend they are fans of other teams to curry favor. The president is very serious about that, he will not do that. He will not cross that line," Carney said.