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WH: No Conflict of Interest in Ray LaHood's Toyota Comment

(AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's misstatement regarding the Toyota recall has nothing to do with any conflict of interest in the Obama administration's involvement in the auto industry, the White House said today.

LaHood said today he misspoke when he said earlier that owners of recalled Toyotas should "stop driving" their cars. Toyota has recalled nearly 4.5 million vehicles because of faulty gas pedals. LaHood said today he only meant to urge affected customers to take their vehicles into a dealership to get them repaired.

Given that the federal government owns a majority stake in rival company General Motors, White House Deputy Spokesman Bill Burton was asked during the daily White House breifing whether LaHood's comments represented a conflict of interest. As news of the recall has unfolded, GM has reportedly offered Toyota customers new incentives to win their business.

The administration's involvement with GM, "of course, would not have any impact on this administration's commitment to making sure that Americans are kept safe on our roads," Burton said.

Ray LaHood Comments Show Toyota Owners' Conundrum

The auto industry is "something the president never wanted to get involved in," he added.

"The secretary made clear what he thinks is the right thing to do," Burton said, which is for Americans with recalled cars to get them checked out.

Burton said he was not aware of any pressure from the White House for LaHood to address his statement but that the secretary "said something he felt could be misconstrued" and took it upon himself to correct that.