Romney stumbles over question about GOP contraception push
February 29th, 2012
06:34 PM ET
9 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. macrasta

    he is so robotic!

    February 29, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  2. Larry L

    The amendment would essentially allow all employers to opt out of any policy they consider "contrary" to their religious beliefs. For example, if an employer believed prayer was the only thing required for any medical situation then all medical intervention would be against their religious belief. This will prevent the insurrance from being able to distribute the risk pool and render policies too useless or too expensive for employees to purchase. This is another example of the Republican attack on the working people and their families.

    February 29, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    LOL! Translation: "I have no position on the matter until my campaign staff comes up with one. Once they tell me my position you'll be the first to know".

    Man, you can't make up this kind of comedy gold!

    February 29, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  4. dave

    Great! So once I register my business as Amish I can forget about providing health coverage to anyone!

    February 29, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. Woman In California

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

    Misunderstood or lied? Neither is what we need in a president.

    February 29, 2012 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  6. Langley Whickersham

    "I voted for it before , I voted against" -huuh?
    You Rebpubs thought John Kerry was a flip flopper!

    February 29, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  7. The Film Professor

    All of the GOP candidates are just totally clueless on this issue. "Religious Freedom" for them means denying women birth control and forcing women to have a wand stuck up their unmentionable before they can have a therapeutic ab? And Sanctorum is "sick to his stomach" over even the idea of a separation between church and state?

    Why would any of you consider voting for these morons?

    February 29, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  8. Jim in San Mateo

    In other words: Organized Religion: 1 Women: 0.

    I guess women's health care is best left to a bunch of old celibate men, according to Mitt Romney.

    February 29, 2012 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  9. AE

    If church's are tax exempt & hire from the general public, and use the pulpit to politicize more often than not, then they should be subjected to the laws of the land!! If it is dealings inside the church than leave them alone, I may call myself a church and opt out of paying my employees medical care since medical care is against my religion.." Give unto Cesar that which is his, etc..."'

    February 29, 2012 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  10. Stephen Z

    How could he possibly have thought the question was about a state law when the reporter clearly referenced the bill. I think this was Romney's TRUE beliefs coming out. He was a moderate less than 10 years ago and has mysteriously turned into an staunch conservative the past 4 years. Romney is going to implode if he wins the nomination. He makes so many mistakes when he's not even pressed, just imagine what will happen when he has to debate Obama...

    February 29, 2012 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  11. Brian

    It is truly an amazing feat when Mitt Romney comes down on both sides of an issue and STILL GETS IT WRONG.

    February 29, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. Kman821

    It's official ... Romney has now been on both sides of this issue just like every other issue. How can he possibly lose when his position(s) on every issue are sure to please everyone?!?!

    February 29, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  13. Jake

    so if you misunderstand something...don't comment on it! you haven't learned that in SIX years running for President!?

    February 29, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  14. Mary

    This is what bugs me about Romney on so many levels... He doesn't really listen. He sounds kind of like an idiot in his quotes in this article. I think he's maybe not really that smart. And then at the very end, he throws in a phrase like "I clearly want to have religious exemption from 'Obamacare.'". When this health care / contraception issue isn't even about Obamacare, and no one else has called it that. But he thinks if he ends anything with "against Obamacare", we will agree with him, and like him. I find it patronizing, and insulting. He seems to think he is the smartest guy in the room, so he can snow us over with buzzwords, but he isn't the smartest person in the room, he just doesn't know it. It is... irritating. And I still want him to articulate WHY he wants to be president. I want to like him, because he is a moderate Republican, even though keeps saying he isn't...

    February 29, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  15. HenryB

    When Romney finally says something that he means, he gets in trouble with his handlers and then does a 180 and blames it on a ":rushed question". I love how these people always blame the media when they say something dumb.

    February 29, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  16. gino

    Is this a flip? Or a flop? I guess he's in favor of letting employers deny coverage of any health issue based on their "moral conviction." I guess Christian Scientist employers could deny all coverage based on their "moral conviction" that health is a matter of mind over matter. Wow!

    February 29, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  17. Eric

    So he was confused by the question, it happens. Rather than ask for a clarification, he just charges ahead with an answer, always a good tactic for the leader of the free world.

    February 29, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  18. cali girl

    Yeah yeah, it is your party GOP move. If you were with the program, just hearing Blunt-Rubio you should have immediately said yes. Your answer instead is that you would not get involved in contraception issues between a man and woman, husband and wife. First off, contraception is for women and men who are not married, for lots of women's health issues (like erratic hormones), and condoms to prevent diseases. What an idiot.

    February 29, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  19. Hannibalee

    The way the question was asked was NOT at all confusing. Stop making excuses! Romney barely pays attention. Who wants a President that's not in the same room upon which they stand?

    Romney should just go home and play in his safety net.

    February 29, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  20. RabidVt

    So your friend Roy Blunt, your "liaison to the Senate" has a bill named after him that concerns contraception and you "Confused it with an Ohio state law"? I know the people who would vote for you are dumb enough to believe this but seriously Mitt, Democrats are watching. Don't embarrass yourself.

    February 29, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  21. Mittens

    I didn't understand the question
    I misspoke
    It wasn't meant to be a factual statement
    My comment was taken out of context

    In reality:
    I accidentally told the truth rather than saying what the rabid base wants to hear.

    February 29, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  22. Jamie from Riverside

    walk back, retreat, deny, repeat as needed.

    February 29, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  23. Susan in Arkansas

    I am concerned about a potential Presidential candidate, who must continually "walk back" from answers to questions which appear to be very straight forward. I am not a rocket scientist, but I understood the question. Mr. Romney should have been knowledgeable enough of this current, incendiary topic to have given an honest, straight-forward answer the first time.

    February 29, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  24. Nothiga

    REPORTER: Do you support the bill on birth control?

    RMONEY: It depends on whether Obama supports it or not.

    REPORTER: But the bill is being sponsored by a Tea party lawmaker.

    RMONEY: In that case, I'm in support!

    February 29, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  25. edog

    That is what happens when you are a flip flopper with no core convictions. Mitt reminds me of my time when I was 9 or 10 years old where I was always telling white lies to my parents. It always gets to a point where I can't remember all my lies and I get tripped up. Did I say that? Or did I say this? Mitt is a full blown liar and that is why he "STUMBLES"!!!

    February 29, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
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