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. bilk7

    So, in his defense, he's saying he made a statement on a subject that he didn't know the details of or what the reporter was actually asking. Not exactly Presidential material! I suspect he originally stated his true feelings on the issue and then his handlers tried to "fix" it quickly and told him he can't think that way in a GOP primary season.

    March 1, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  2. Susan Prock

    No I think Kermit the frog would be a better candidate!

    March 1, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |

    This question didn't confuse me and I'm not seeking to be the president of th United States, if this type of question confuses Mitt Romney how will he ever be able to answer questions from other leaders in the world, much tougher than this issue on birth control.

    March 1, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  4. NoGr8rH8r

    There's only 1 issue that matters – THE ECONOMY ! Forget the other nonsense already

    March 1, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |

    I misunderstood the question because I thought it was about contradiction and not! So have I contradicted myself in these campaigns? No!

    March 1, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  6. John

    "Oh, haha, did I say that? What I meant was actually the complete opposite of what I actually said!"

    How convenient.

    March 1, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    Bit of a stretch for Romney to expect folks to vote for him when he can't seem to get a handle on anything of significance to the American people (let alone the world) without first backtracking, stumbling, and issuing 5 different press releases on 5 different days to straighten out his 5 different "opinions". He's definitely not someone I'd trust as having the "leadership" qualities required of a President of the United States. Fact is Romney doesn't have anything remotely close to leadership skills - beyond prancing around the country in his mom jeans pretending he is the Big Man In Town, that is.

    March 1, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  8. T

    Just Saying
    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!

    Yea, just like you miss read the post. Jobs things are getting better, we are talking about Mitt and a change will come out of his mouth. This is scary because you never know where he stands and people like that will start another WAR......

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

    Mitt's misstep is a 'minor' thing.
    The real news is that those "freedom loving" rePubs want to allow employers (i.e. corporations) to opt out of health care they don't 'morally' support. Makes Sense! Corporations are people too. If they are 'morally' offended by health care coverage for contraceptives.. so be it.
    Next we might see that those corporate people might be offended by cancer too. Afterall, it is morally offensive to burden employers with such dreadful illnesses that only take (slave) workers away from the job. It's the workers' fault if they contract cancer [sic], if they only tried a little harder to be productive workers, they wouldn't have gotten this "cop out". No, they shall not have fully paid medical leave, on the employer's expense. Those complaining cancer welfare queens. Over our dead body (corporate), well, not really. It's more over their dead bodies (the cancerous workers).

    Ah, let freedom ring. If only medieval kings and emperors had had such powers, as we, corporate America, have.

    March 1, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  10. crabman

    bottom line - it all comes down to who is a better lier

    March 1, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  11. MA Citizen

    Typical Willard. He does much better with a script. I have read the transcript – I do NOT think the question was confusing. Or rushed. He blew it AGAIN. Women out there – DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN. He was FOR a woman's right to choose when he was Gov. of MA. Now? Oh, he "saw the light" and changed his mind. He has no moral fiber. None. He will say and do ANYTHING to get elected. He is a disgrace to the Republican Party.

    March 1, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  12. Don

    Mitt Romney=Sarah Palin with a butch hair cut, both are clueless, brain dead, and have no answers or solutions, they can only recite campaign bumpersticker slogans as if that is a plan or solution. Both are also the absolute best the pathetic republican circus of clowns has to offer. GOP=Bankruppt on brain, plans, solutions, and leaders who are even aware of what reality looks like, in other words, just plain stupid.

    March 1, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  13. Jake Marley

    The Republicans don't want to govern, they want to sit in the back seats and gripe.

    Mitt keeps trying to win. He should run as a Democrat. He'd take both coasts and the Mormon states, no matter how badly he campaigned. He should leave the Republicans to the Hatfields and the McCoys.

    March 1, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  14. KCRick

    Come on people – he misunderstood the question! Is this really a big stumble? He corrected himself when he realized that the reporter was talking about another bill? Lest we forget Obama's 58 states comment and any number of Joe Biden's stupid comments. Do you want a President who is human and admits he made a mistake or a narcissist like Obama that always "blames Bush!"

    March 1, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  15. Skitownrefugee

    Look – the TRUTH is that this guy isn't qualified for the job he's seeking. You can never ever trust what he says at any time because it is always subject to change at any time. That was not a difficult question and the reporter gave him some details about what the bill was about and his knee jerk reaction was more liberal than conservative and it was like – Oh I forgot, I'm supposed to take the conservative side of everything now until the general election- right? The only qualifications he has to be president (in his own mind they are qualifications) are saving the Olympics, one term governor of Mass, and raping and pillaging companies- not to create jobs as he says – but to create wealth for him and his partners. These are the plain facts. This is just some rich dude who somehow thinks a lot more of himself and his abilities than there is any evidence for. And he's the best they have ;o)?

    March 1, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  16. Get the facts straight before you ask questions

    Jim Heath is just another example of a liberal reporter making false statements to lead people to believe that conservatives are proposing extreme policies that they in fact are not proposing. In this question to Romney, Heath said that Blunt-Rubio deals with banning female contraception. In fact, Blunt-Rubio does no such thing. Under Blunt-Rubio, contraception would not be banned, but some employees would pay for it themselves. According the Planned Parenthood’s website, the pill costs $15-$50 per month, so it is certainly not unaffordable and it is not unreasonable to think that some women should pay for it themselves (just as men pay for condoms themselves). Romney’s response to Heath was based on Heath’s false premise that the bill bans female contraception.

    March 1, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  17. ART

    His campaign song should be that song by Kiss which goes two sides of the coin to choose from.

    March 1, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  18. Peter

    Oh for God's sake.


    What the hell is the problem?

    Either that, or every non-Catholic who works in the cafeteria at Boston College will have their health insurance restricted.

    The REAL reason is that the Catholic Church does not have as much control over their flock as they wish.

    March 1, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  19. @home

    Romney seems as if he flip flops because he just makes it up as he goes.. he is trying to crowd please every crowd. If this isn't the case and he is being spoon fed everything they want him to say by people that forget what they told him to say 24 hrs ago.. Well, that makes him anything but a leader... a true puppet in the making.

    March 1, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  20. Peter

    So now I have to have my insurance restricted because of the religious beliefs of my employer?

    Oh, stop.

    Let's hope my employer is not a Christian Scientist!

    March 1, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  21. tim

    Is Rick Perry wearing his Mitt Romney costume again?

    March 1, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. d

    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!

    I'm more concerned that Romney is confused by the question "Have you taken a position on the bill?"

    March 1, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  23. James PDX

    Romney inherited his (in)ability to think on his feet from his father. His father gave away his chance to be president to Nixon because his mouth/brain constantly malfunctioned.

    March 1, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  24. GI Joe.

    OOps - didn't mean to start that war - misunderstood what they said.

    Liar. Flip-flopping is not stumbling.

    March 1, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  25. Matthew

    I really don't think Mitt knows what conservative values are. Go Rick teleprompter needed when you speak the truth!

    March 1, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
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