New York (CNN) – While standing outside Engine Company 24, which lost 11 firefighters on September 11, Mitt Romney reiterated Tuesday he would also have ordered the mission to kill Osama bin Laden but criticized President Barack Obama for politicizing his role on its one-year anniversary.
"This is a person who had done terrible harm to America and who represented a continuing threat to civilized people throughout the world, and had I been president of the United States, I would have made the same decision the president made which was to remove him," Romney said.
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Romney's comments came before Obama's surprise arrival in Afghanistan for a visit to sign an agreement between the two governments and greet troops in theater.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee had marked the anniversary of the top al Qaeda leader's death by appearing with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The two delivered six large pizza pies to the firefighters at the New York fire station.
After eating inside and taking pictures in front of fire trucks, Romney and Giuliani – the first time the pair has appeared together since they ran against each other in 2008 – spoke briefly and took questions from reporters.
Romney was asked to explain a statement he made in 2007 in which he criticized candidate Obama who at the time said he would be willing to go into Pakistan to hunt down bin Laden. He later clarified his point, but the president's re-election team has hammered on Romney for it.
The businessman and former Massachusetts governor said his position was the same as Vice President Joe Biden, also a candidate in the last presidential cycle.
"There are many people who believed as I did that it was naïve on the part of the president, at the time as a candidate, to say he would go into Pakistan," said Romney. "It was a very – if you will – a fragile and flammable time in Pakistan and I thought it was a mistake of him as a candidate for the presidency of the United States to announce that he would go in."
Romney gave Obama credit for his role in bringing down the top al Qaeda leader, who was in Pakistan, but derided the president for making it a political issue for personal gain.
"I think politicizing it and trying to draw a distinction between himself and myself was an inappropriate use of the very important event that brought America together, which was the elimination of Osama bin Laden."