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Obama’s Tarmac Encounter With Brewer Sidetracks White House

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Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s encounter with Arizona governor Jan Brewer yesterday on an airport tarmac in Phoenix sidetracked the administration’s effort to keep the media focused on the president’s message.

“I’m glad you guys are focused on the important things,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said as he briefed reporters aboard Air Force One from Las Vegas to Denver. Five of the nine questions posed to Carney were about the short meeting between Obama and Brewer yesterday.

Obama told ABC News in an interview that the meeting was “not a big deal” and a “classic example of things getting blown out of proportion.”

When Brewer, a Republican, greeted Democrat Obama upon his arrival yesterday, she handed him an envelope with a letter asking for a meeting on Arizona’s economy and suggesting they visit the U.S.-Mexico border together. The two then conversed closely for several minutes and Brewer was photographed with her finger in the air pointing in Obama’s direction.

Brewer told reporters afterward that Obama “was a little disturbed about my book.” The disagreement was over her characterization in her political memoir of a White House meeting in 2010 to talk about illegal immigration, she said.

“He didn’t feel that I had treated him cordially,” she said. “I said I was sorry he felt that way, but I didn’t get my sentence finished.”

At the airport, the president “noted” that “her description of that meeting was not accurate, did not reflect what happened in the meeting in the Oval Office,” Carney said.

Hand Gestures

Brewer has made several media appearances over the last 24 hours recounting yesterday’s conversation and suggested she was gesturing and not pointing or wagging a finger at Obama.

“I was talking, and I talk with my hands,” Brewer said on CBS News. “I’ve always been kind of animated.”

Brewer said she was respectful.

“I thought he was kind of thin-skinned,” she said, adding that Obama walked away while she was “in the middle of a sentence.”

Obama and Brewer have been at odds over issues including immigration, the economy and health care. Obama called the 2010 immigration law she signed “misguided” and the Justice Department sued to block it.

As attention was focused on the incident, the Arizona governor’s book, “Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America’s Border,” jumped into the top 100 in sales over the last 24 hours on Amazon.com. It was at number 285,568.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julianna Goldman in Denver at jgoldman6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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