July 17th, 2012
06:44 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney surrogate apologizes for saying Obama should 'learn how to be an American'

Irwin, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Mitt Romney's national campaign co-chair John Sununu apologized Tuesday afternoon for saying he wished President Barack Obama would "learn how to be an American" earlier in the day.

Appearing on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," Sununu said he regretted using those words on a campaign conference call.

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"I'm apologizing for using those words," said Sununu. "I did say those words that were there and, frankly, I made a mistake."

Sununu said his point was to criticize Obama for failing as an economic leader and creating a toxic environment for businesses.

"I was making the point that in America, entrepreneurs deserve credit and there is an American formula for creating jobs," said Sununu. "I don't apologize for the idea that this president has demonstrated that he does not understand how jobs are created in America. He thinks that jobs are created by giving grants to your cronies, to your bundlers and your contributors, like he did with Solyndra."

The earlier conference call with reporters came as the Republican presidential candidate continued to battle attacks from Democrats over Romney's business career and tax returns. It also featured heated comments from a group of small business owners, one of whom likened Obama's economic policies to "socialism."

Sununu responded to the characterization in his CNN interview, saying he does not think Obama is a socialist but "he created a feeling among entrepreneurs that he's not a capitalist."

Despite the apology, Sununu continued to bash Obama's economic record.

Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire who is known for being a reliable and colorful attack dog, criticized Obama for his so-called "cheek by jowl" relationship with donors in the initial conference call. Continuing a line of attack pursued by Romney Monday, Sununu accused Obama of steering government loans to political friends.

"He thinks that jobs are created by giving grants to your cronies, to your bundlers and your contributors, like he did with Solyndra. Like he did with Vista (ph), like he did with the wind projects that took jobs out of this country," Sununu told Blitzer. "The common denominator is that they all had owners and investors that were bundlers and contributors to his campaign."

In the call earlier, Sununu revived an attack from the 2008 campaign over Obama's relationship with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, and tied the president to the notorious sphere of Chicago politics.

"He comes out of that that murky world in Chicago where politician and felon has become synonymous," he said. "It is an area where Tony Rezko is a convicted felon and is in prison, and just happened to be a guy that did a smarmy real estate deal with the president, where Rezko pays top dollar and the president pays a discount and the deal is able to be done."

Sununu also charged on the call the president "has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions."

"The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build their businesses from the ground up is how our economy became the envy of the world," Sununu said. "It is the American way, and I wish this president would learn how to be an American."

Asked on the call by a reporter to clarify his comment, Sununu said he had meant to criticize Obama's understanding of the American way of doing business.

"The president has to learn the American formula for creating business," he said.

Responding to Sununu's comments, Obama's campaign declared Team Romney had "officially gone off the deep end."

"The question is what else they'll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith wrote in a statement. "This meltdown and over-the-top rhetoric won't make things better – it only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation."

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Filed under: 2012 • John Sununu • Mitt Romney
soundoff (580 Responses)
  1. anagram_kid

    Dixie Normous, wrote –
    Live utterly ruined?? No. Worse off than 4 years ago? Yes. I had a job as a contractor for the government. The obama administration pulled the plug as part of their cutbacks so I lost my job.
    ---------
    If you had been good enough at your job they would have converted you. Your job loss is not the president’s fault. It is your own.

    July 17, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  2. kevin

    Sununu doesn't sound like an American name...where's his birth certificate. Sorry ...just having fun at the tea party's expense.

    July 17, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. once upon a horse

    So if the Obama team said something similar about Mitt Romney then I guess Mitt would be demanding an apology because his feelings would be hurt. Let's get REAL here, from day ONE the Republicans have been trying to paint Barrack Huessin Obama as something other than being American. They fire up the right wing nutjobs when they use his middle name. Just yeaterday on his show Rush Limbaugh said that Obama HATES America! People like Glenn BEck and the FoxNews bunch have touted the same crap. And the sad part about it is that it WORKS...but the good thing is that it only works with a certain group of people. Uneducated, right wing, ultra religious (lol there is a certain irony there don't you think?) mainly white lower middle class to lower class, NRA members that weren't going to vote for nor support Obama anyway. If I had a name like Sununu or Priebus I would not be calling a name like Obama as un-American.

    July 17, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Sununu should apoligize for being a moron.

    Let's see if Romney disavows this remark. Would not expect it – that would take character.

    The right should get used to it – America is a multicultural, inclusive society. It has always been a beacon of LIBERAL democracy, since it was founded by ENLIGHTENMENT LIBERALS. If you want to live in a right wing conservative society, I'm sure you can find a few in the world – PLEASE MOVE THERE and stop trying to ruin this country.

    Perhaps Romen and friends can found their own country – you know – AMERCIA.

    July 17, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. MollyBee

    What Mr. Sununu means is that Obama should learn how to be a Republican....out in support of Wall Street governance of the United States of America. Sorry, Americans LIKE their middle class President. But....keep on talking yourself into a deeper political hole.

    July 17, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. Darnell Clayton

    Yeah OBAMA is UnAmerican, but you have Republicans who are suppose to be pro-life and pro family, protesting healthcare for hard working tax paying americans, but turn around and are ready to go to WAR with everyone in the middle east over OIL>

    July 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. sonny chapman

    Looks like a pig. Speaks like a pig. Sounds like a pig. I guess he is a ___.

    July 17, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. LJ

    Should that be interpreted as he thinks the President should turn "white?"

    July 17, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Leftcoastrocky

    Sununu was born in Havana, Cuba, the son of Victoria (née Dada) and John Saleh Sununu, an international film distributor.[1] He is of Palestinian Christian and Greek descent [2]. His father grew up in Jerusalem and his mother was born in San Salvador, El Salvador.[2][3] He is a Maronite Catholic.

    July 17, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. Harveyyaz

    Why doesn't Sununa simply call Obama a socialist Muslim Kenyan? The man is preposterous. Just as his claims that the people who trashed the economy are the same people who know how to fix it. What's most astonishing, however, is not that Sununu makes such ridiculous comments, but that so many other people actually take them seriously.

    July 17, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. Dixie Normous

    @anagram_kid

    Dixie Normous, wrote –
    Live utterly ruined?? No. Worse off than 4 years ago? Yes. I had a job as a contractor for the government. The obama administration pulled the plug as part of their cutbacks so I lost my job.
    ---
    If you had been good enough at your job they would have converted you. Your job loss is not the president’s fault. It is your own.
    ---------------------------------------------
    There went your credibilty. Typical left, speaking with not all the facts. Statements like that is why you and other left leaning posters on here have no credibility.

    July 17, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    @anagram_kid – Dixie Normous, wrote –
    Live utterly ruined?? No. Worse off than 4 years ago? Yes. I had a job as a contractor for the government. The obama administration pulled the plug as part of their cutbacks so I lost my job.
    ---
    If you had been good enough at your job they would have converted you. Your job loss is not the president’s fault. It is your own.
    ************************************************
    You have to laugh. People don't want to pay taxes, but complain about deficits and the poor quality of (or lack of) government services. They want to reduce the size of government as long as it has no impact on them. I guess sactifice and personal repsonsibility are for other people.

    July 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  13. Myviewis

    I thought Democrats were anti calling people fat.

    July 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  14. ST

    Where have people of wisdom gone? I expected Sununu to be wise like some of his fellow republicans and advise Romney to release his Tax Returns. I think he is making the matter worse instead of helping him.

    July 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. TAK

    It is not John Sununu's place, nor does he have the qualifications, to define who is an American or to determine if someone is or is not acting like one. He is now and always has been a politician of the worst sort.

    July 17, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  16. Paul v

    Sununu has just slapped the face of all Americans who voted for Obama by his statement – I don't see that treachery being flaunted by the dems

    July 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  17. Allen

    Politics in America vis-a-vis the Tea/Republicans has become a carny show of buffoonery.

    July 17, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  18. Myviewis

    So now Democrats are calling this man a pig. What happened to all the preaching from Democrats against bullying, calling people names, hurting people's feelings, against Racism???? Was that just to make Republicans look bad?

    July 17, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  19. pkbkr

    onceuponahorse.....you said it all perfectly! Thank you! Obama/Biden 2012

    July 17, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  20. Arun

    Actually, these idiots have no idea on how to be an american. It sure looks like the repubes forgot why the pilgrims first came to this country. They were being persecuted for their religious beliefs back home. Sound familiar?? The right wing nuts in the country are the real idiots that are so called un-american. They don't like anything they are against!!

    July 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  21. Donkey Party

    Is there anything more un-American than the GOP and the way they have disrespected the President of the USA? There is no worse enemy of the country than the domestic terrorist GOP. They are pushing hard for a civil war, I say we give those yellow cowards one, and wipe them and their diseased ideology away for eternity.

    July 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  22. Tom Z

    Simply trying to play to the birther hysteria, but in a way so he can later say that technically he wasn't saying that Obama is foreign-born.

    Why can't they stick to issues that affect us instead of playing on the fears of uneducated masses? So far I haven't heard any ideas come from Romney or the GOP except basically saying let's go back to the Bush policies. Seems that instead of coming up with solutions, they just want to complain that as horrible a job they did, it was better than now. That doesn't cut it for me. I want to vote for someone. Not just vote against the other guy.

    July 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  23. mike texoma

    Everybody has an opinion, just like everbody has a belly button. Reporting all these opinions is silly and unnecessary and adds nothing to the collective consciousness of anything factual. If you are going to report somebody's opinion, CNN, please make it somebody that is engaged in the subject matter and has a factual basis with which to form an opinion.

    July 17, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  24. 1rooster

    How can Sununu, an Arab born in Cuba, say anything negative about anybody. He should be deported. Rush loves him,though.

    July 17, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  25. Arun

    The only reason these idiots are for Mitt is because they know he will be the perfect puppet for them. He has no beliefs as long as they make him money.

    July 17, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
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