Romney stumbles over question about GOP contraception push
February 29th, 2012
06:34 PM ET
8 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. Simeon Namore

    He even flops before he flips.

    March 1, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. diridi

    crazy dude,....Flip-Flop...flip...

    March 1, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  3. Data Driven

    ONN? Romney was interviewed by the Onion?

    Anyway, his comment about "not wanting to go there" reveals the man's fundamental sanity on this issue; his later claim about "not understanding the question" and consequent flip-flop reveals his fundamental sliminess and cowardice.

    A terrible candidate, no matter how you slice it.

    March 1, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. Zenichi-Maro

    Wow. That guy. And he wants to be president.

    March 1, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  5. Harry Olson

    I'm very curious if anybody please would vet President Obama just a little bit. CNN, MSNBC and just about every so called news agency refuse to do so. The President has a lot to answer for with his obvious failed policies but you won't hear about that. Just some cheerleading. What a sorry state we are in.

    March 1, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  6. ThinkAgain

    @luckjoe: "Has Obama ever answered a direct question or given a speech without a teleprompter? Not!"

    When have you ever listened to anything except Fox and/or Limbaugh? Throughout the 2008 campaign and throughout the first term, President Obama has answered HUNDREDS of questions without the use of a teleprompter. He only uses one when delivering speeches, in lieu of note cards.

    If you actually possessed a working brain, you'd know this. I feel sorry for you.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    March 1, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  7. tumbleweed

    America, I'm sorry the Russian's are sending their missles to wipe us out. I misunderstood the question when President Putin asked me if we were really going to attack their bases. I thought he meant , are we going to attract new manufactoring business. i was confused, said President Romney from his bunker under the White House. Heaven help us if you chuckleheads vote for "anybody but Obama"', because he's the "colored" guy who shouldn't be the POTUS.

    March 1, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    V in Chicago
    Wasn't it the Tea Party who asked employers to sign a Pledge NOT to hire anyone until President Obama was out of office? Kinda like you just don't understand the whole picture, but are more than willing to weight in with you two-cents worth
    Straight up, NO chaser! Well said V!
    Obama 2012.

    March 1, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |

    "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."

    Sometimes, I hope Romney wins. He is SUCH a closet moderate. Just look at that centrist statement he made

    March 1, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  10. Tao

    I don’t understand this law. So how are you defining employer? Is the CEO/President the employer too? So if the owner of the company is a Jehovah’s Witness they will not cover my blood transfusion? If he is a Christian Scientist he does not have to cover any medical procedure or medicine? And I thought Conservatives did not want interference with your personal life. Oh, it is ok if a corporation does it, just not the government.

    March 1, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  11. ethandy

    No! No! No! He complete knows what he said and intended to say it in the interview! Romney said, "I'm not for the bill." The word "bill" wasn't even mentioned in the question, but he totally knew it was about the Blunt-Rubio amendment (bill). Romney has about as much integrity as Kleenex. President Obama will blow his nose with him in the general election.

    March 1, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. hannah

    I can't wait for the presidential debates between Romney and Obama. Obama will run circles around him. It is going to be comical.

    March 1, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. Lee Presley

    I would vote for Ron Paul if i didnt know he was secretly a zionist

    March 1, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  14. Dude in Colorado


    Soooo.... The US military was what, going sneak out of Iraq's backdoor in the middle of the night?

    This Blunt-Rubio bill sets a very bad, very dangerous precedent for allowing employers to enforce their beliefs on their employees. See Oman Hussein.

    March 1, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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