Romney stumbles over question about GOP contraception push
February 29th, 2012
06:34 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney stumbles over question about GOP contraception push

Columbus, Ohio (CNN) - Mitt Romney's campaign scrambled to clean up another unforced error by their candidate Wednesday after he came out against a controversial amendment pushed by Senate Republicans that would allow employers to opt out of health care coverage they disagree with on moral grounds.

Romney's statement, which came in an afternoon interview with Ohio News Network, quickly reverberated around the Internet and prompted Romney's campaign to clarify that the opposite was true, and that the former Massachusetts governor, in fact, supports the legislation.

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"The way the question was asked was confusing," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email blasted out to reporters after Romney's became the subject of a flurry of tweets. "Gov. Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith."

The amendment, drafted by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Romney supporter, is an attempt by Senate Republicans to confront head-on a simmering controversy over rules governing religious employers and coverage they are required to provide.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill on Thursday.

The uproar was sparked by a move by the Obama administration that would have required employers to provide contraception to their employees - regardless of the employer's religious beliefs. Representatives from the Catholic church advocated strongly against the measure.

The White House has since backed off on that requirement, and instead said insurers must cover birth control if the employer does not.

In the sit down interview with Ohio's ONN, Romney was asked whether he supported the Blunt measure.

"The issue of birth control, contraception, Blunt-Rubio is being debated, I believe, later this week. It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception," asked the reporter, Jim Heath. "Have you taken a position on it? He (Santorum) said he was for that, we'll talk about personhood in a second; but he's for that, have you taken a position?"

Romney responded: "I'm not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I'm not going there."

As they worked to fix the off-message comment, which was already being circulated to reporters by conservative political operatives, the Romney campaign criticized the "rushed" nature of the question and pointed out that the amendment does not "ban" contraception.

For his part, Romney, appearing on the Howie Carr radio show after the ONN interview, said he misunderstood the question.

"I didn't understand his question. Of course, I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception. So I was simply misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment," Romney said before further outlining his position in support of the amendment.

"I simply misunderstood what he was talking about. I thought it was some Ohio legislation that, where employers were prevented from providing contraceptives so I talked about contraceptives and so forth. I really misunderstood the question," Romney said. "Of course Roy Blunt who is my liaison to the Senate is someone I support and of course I support that amendment. I clearly want to have religious exemption from 'Obamacare.'"

Meanwhile, Obama's re-election team wasted no time Wednesday pouncing on Romney's comments, saying in a statement that Romney showed in one hour "why women don't trust him for one minute."

"It took little more than an hour for him to commit his latest flip-flop," Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager, said in the statement. "Even worse, he ended up on the wrong side of an issue of critical importance to women.”

Also piling on the criticism, Santorum's campaign released a statement accusing Romney of giving a "troubling" first reaction to the question.

"As Governor, Mitt Romney has a clear record of taking away the freedom of religion," Santorum's national communications director Hogan Gidley said in a statement. "We all know Romney's liberal record on this, so when he's asked a question about a bill that would protect our religious freedom – and Romney's gut reaction is to say he'd oppose it – we shouldn't be the least bit surprised."

Also see:

DNC: Romney out of touch

Super PACs provide air cover to GOP candidates

NFL moves opening game for Obama convention speech

Citing partisanship, Snowe stuns with departure news


Filed under: 2012 • Health care • Mitt Romney
soundoff (289 Responses)
  1. Indy

    Romney has that Sarah Palin disease where you can't be asked a question before you see the script and your handlers tell you how to answer. Romney just can't think on his feet or on his own, as he blunders everytime he go's off his pre written script.Lord help all of us if he was ever in a high position where he had to answer to world leaders without being told what to say before he got the question.

    March 1, 2012 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  2. Gary

    Loose Cannon. Do we really want a President, with so much weighing on his words that will guess at what the question was instead of asking for clarification of what the question was? This really speaks to his arrogance.

    March 1, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    He's back to his flip flopping ways. Willard, you are no social conservative. Who do you think you're fooling?

    March 1, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  4. Joe The Plumber

    Another GOP red herring – this has been resolved by having the insurance provider pick up were the employer leaves off.

    March 1, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  5. OKTOGO77

    It seems to me the reason Romney commits so many verbal "stumbles" is because the only thing he has a firm opinion on is that he wants to be POTUS. Beyond that, he doesn't seem to know what he truly believes about anything. I disagree with anyone who thinks he has had any good debates. It's painful to listen to him. Moreover, the minute he opens his mouth, he does not come across as at all sincere or widely knowledgeable. I know many Democrats are hoping the Republican candidate will be Santorum, but I don't think there's much to worry about if Romney is the candidate. Obama will skewer him in debates with very little effort. Obama generally comes across as cool, calm and knowledgeable – Romney, on the other hand, is usually all over the place simply because he always seems to be searching for the right thing to say in any given situation, and as a result, he trips himself up time and time again.

    March 1, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  6. chill

    So all an employer has to do is state that they don't approve of contraception on moral grounds and they are releived of the responsibility of providing for it in their healthcare? That's even broader than waiving the requirement for businesses run by churches. Contraception should not be treated any differently than any other form of preventive care and if a church wants to run a business and compete with the private sector, then they should play by the same set of rules.

    March 1, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  7. Steve

    Thought it was some Ohio legislation? So he thought that Blunt and Rubio were legislators in Ohio?

    Romney can't tell the truth to save his life. He'll say ANYTHING to get elected.

    HEATH: "He's brought contraception into this campaign. The issue of birth control, contraception, Blunt-Rubio is being debated, I believe, later this week. It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on it? [Santorum] said he was for that, we'll talk about personhood in a second; but he's for that, have you taken a position?"

    ROMNEY: "I'm not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I'm not going there."

    Later:

    "I simply misunderstood what he was talking about. I thought it was some Ohio legislation that, where employers were prevented from providing contraceptives so I talked about contraceptives and so forth. I really misunderstood the question," Romney said. "Of course Roy Blunt who is my liaison to the Senate is someone I support and of course I support that amendment. I clearly want to have religious exemption from 'Obamacare.'"

    March 1, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  8. Peace

    Everyone is aware that if they are asked a question, they listen carefully, understand and then answer. If they don't understand the question, immediately they ask for clarification before answering. They don't answer and come later and say I did not understand. This is typical Romney and he is proving everyday that he is a professional flip-flopper.

    March 1, 2012 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  9. Sandy

    LOL. I told someone the other day that Romney will do another Flip Flop before Friday!

    March 1, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  10. lgny

    This proposed law is total idiocy.

    It's long-established law that the govt can not determine which beliefs are legitimate and which are not. If I can demonstrate that I believe something, then the govt must accept it. The belief does NOT need to be supported by any organized religion nor does it even need to be supported by anyone else. I just have to demonstrate that I sincerely believe it and conduct my life consistent with that belief.

    So... any employer can devise any moral objection they wish and then use this law to exclude insurance coverage based on that belief. For example, I can believe that all interference/modification of organs relating to reproduction is immoral and then insist that my insurance carrier eliminate coverage for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, fertility treatment, erectile dysfunction treatment, .... If nothing else, that would certainly decrease my insurance costs.

    The Republican goal here is NOT good government, but to make ACA hopelessly unenforceable.

    March 1, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  11. Bubba

    He reminds me of Reagan . . . an actor reading lines from a script. He's just a puppet being run by a team; Kermit would be as convincing a candidate.

    March 1, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  12. Just Saying

    Give me a break! How many of us miss understood a question? You liberals will jump on anything against this man. But you won't jump on Obama about JOBS!

    March 1, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  13. corpsman

    So either Romney is a flip-flopper or he has a serious comprehension problem (the bill was described BY NAME – how could he not know what it was? There is no other Blunt-Rubio bill about contraception coming before the senate next week).

    Either way, he's unfit to be president.

    March 1, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  14. bkgrandma

    to Brian in DC...He's been non stop flip flopping. Why should we cut anyone a break who says what he thinks he should say just to get the nomination. If he is elected it is scary to think what he would do in his 1st four years just to make sure his party supports him for another four. I am one of many Republicans who I'm sure will be voting for OBAMA!!!

    March 1, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  15. Dean

    Romney is to liberal for my taste, but he would do less damage to this country than another 4 years of Obama. This looks like another election of "lesser of two evils."

    March 1, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  16. Vice of New York

    Way to go "Which Way?" Mitt Romney! First he's for it, before he's against it, bofore he's for it....!

    March 1, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  17. Obama Cares

    Mitty has no clue. He's out of touch, period.
    Obama/Biden 2012.

    March 1, 2012 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  18. Dean

    @bobcat2u

    And you people are seriously considering this man to be POTUS ? If he can't even get a handle on simple legislation like this, what do you think will happen if he speaks before he understands something on a world catastrophy level ? This is the type of man who could "accidently" get us into a war because he didn't understand the question. That's a scary thought to me.
    --------------------------–
    No worse than Pelosi's "we have to pass it to see what is in it." That is a scary way to pass a bill to me.

    March 1, 2012 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  19. SMJ

    So would he also support a bill that requires everyone to own/wear special "underwear" that the Mormons do? Look deeply into his "faith" people. It's a cult, plain and simple. And all you religious conservatives who think he's your guy...you can't be further from the truth. Do yourself a favor and RESEARCH the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism). Strange ideas, people...very strange indeed.

    March 1, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  20. Seattle Sue

    Wow! Romney is on top of everything as usual. NOT

    March 1, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  21. Bubba

    "Roof Dog" Romney wants to strap America to his car and roar away into the darkness with us.

    March 1, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  22. Dennis

    I'm no huge fan of Romney, but this is a non-issue. The question confused me, too. I have no problem with any candidate answering some confusing question and then realizing a bit later what the real question was and clarifying their position on it.
    That said, I really don't Santorum. He's said some really stupid things that weren't later retracted because of confusing questions. He just isn't very bright.

    I'll be honest, if it isn't my top pick, Ron Paul, Romney's the only other candidate I'd actually support.

    March 1, 2012 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  23. luckjoe

    CNN, Why haven't you ever published any of Obama and Bidens stumbles?

    March 1, 2012 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  24. _oOo_

    So we should allow businesses run by Christian Scientists to not provide any health care insurance coverage at all because god will make them well again.

    March 1, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  25. girish

    people can't put idiotic , extremist,religious fanatics,flip flopper as president . He must relate to common people .If he wants to give MAX tax break to 1% and increase debt,how republicans are going to contain and reduce debt

    March 1, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
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