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Brewer, Obama have heated exchange during airport greeting

By Jessica Testa, Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX — The Republican governor who has “Scorpions for Breakfast” says she was chewed out Wednesday by the leader of the free world.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s greeting at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport devolved into a tense exchange after President Barack Obama raised concerns about the way the governor’s political memoir portrayed him, according to Matthew Benson, her spokesman.

“The president clearly was unhappy with the way he was characterized in her book,” Benson said in a telephone interview.

According to a pool reporter, the two spoke intensely for a few minutes and talked over each other at times. At one point, Brewer pointed her finger at the president. He appeared to walk away from the conversation, with Brewer still talking, and the governor said later that she didn’t finish her sentence.

Brewer, who appeared flustered and taken aback, told the pool reporter that when she asked Obama whether he read her book, he said he had read an excerpt.

Benson said Brewer has no regrets about the incident.

“She was gracious but didn’t back down from the president when he voiced her displeasure with her,” Benson said.

A representative in the White House Office of Media Affairs said he couldn’t comment.

Brewer’s political memoir, “Scorpions for Breakfast,” was released in November. In it, she discusses her handling of SB 1070 and its fallout, accuses Obama of mischaracterizing the immigration law’s provisions and describes a sharp exchange during a meeting with Obama.

The governor, who didn’t join Obama during his visit to an Intel Corp. plant in Chandler, handed the president a handwritten letter welcoming him to Arizona and saying she was happy that he would see the state’s economic recovery.

“She made clear that we pursued very different economic policies in Arizona than he’s pursued in Washington,” Benson said.

She ended the letter by repeating an invitation for the president to visit the U.S.-Mexico border.

Brewer later released a statement acknowledging that she spoke to Obama for a few moments about the state’s economic turnaround. The statement included no mention of her book.

“First let me say I don’t doubt that the president wants what he believes is best for this country,” the statement read. “He and I simply have starkly different visions of what that is.”

Brewer told the pool reporter that she had “all the respect in the world for the office of the president.”

“I thought we probably would’ve talked about the things that were important to him and important to me, helping one another. Our country is upside down. Arizona was upside down. But we have turned it around,” Brewer said. “I know again that he loves this country and I love this country.”

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