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. Tim

    So his common sense told him that allowing employers to opt out of health care coverage they disagree with on moral grounds was wrong. Then his Republican party told him that no, they actually stand for that nonsense.

    March 1, 2012 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  2. lame-o

    I'm re-iterating _oOo_'s message: So we should allow businesses run by Christian Scientists to not provide any health care insurance coverage at all because god will make them well again.

    I'm sorry, but there are plenty of conservatives that believe in castrating those invalids that they don't want to have babies, how is free birth control any different? Maybe you're worried the intelligent people will be the ones using it more and therefor less intelligent offspring? Hmmm. Start using your brains and realize this is a positive for the American race to allow everyone access to free birth control.

    March 1, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  3. Indyswimmer66

    Early-onset Alzheimer"s?

    March 1, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  4. ALPHA

    Wow excellent "reporting" Ms. Streitfeld, you are right on top of this huge news.
    How about a real report on a real stumble?
    I would suggest a real report on the stumbling, bumbling sad sack we have occupying the White House. His stumbling, bumbling policies have gotten more Americans killed in Afganastan. He is constantly appoligizing to foreign leaders. Then he tells them exactly when we are leaving, what the heck does he think was going to happen??

    March 1, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  5. Oman Hussein

    I for one applaud the Republicans for allowing religiously-own business such as my own to be able to support our beliefs. The fact that they defend my right as a Muslim employer to require women of non-Muslim faith to wear the burqa, as is proper, is very heartening to me.

    March 1, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  6. Dave

    Hey, Just Saying, we don't jump on Obama on jobs because his policies have been creating them, although not as fast as we would like. I'd like to see what the numbers would look like if he didn't have to deal with a Congress that has openly stated their PRIMARY goal is to see him fail, thus they block everything he tries to do because they're deathly afraid the ideas might work.

    March 1, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  7. American

    Another flip-flop in the same day...
    What a inauthentic tool of a politician Romney has sadly become.

    March 1, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  8. Wes / MD

    Opps, there goes another one. You know they say a gaff is when a politician accidently tells the truth. Mitt Romneys problem is that he is trying to be an extreme conservatist to pander to the tea party, and he is not. He is a moderate and no matter how much he lies, the truth always finds a way to get out. I dont know about you but this is not man I want representing me on the foreign policy stage when he can't even get a simple legislation question like this right. The thought of Romney having his finger on that nuclear button scares the hell out of me. With his comprehension skills he will have started W W 3 because he was to stupid to ask for clarification on a comment from a foriegn country

    March 1, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  9. Glenn Doty

    He's laying the groundwork for his "pivot" when he gets to the general election:

    "I was against that before I was for it, and now I'm against it again... "

    March 1, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  10. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Romney is a compulsive liar. He should never serve in any public office. He lies non-stop and then denies it. He is a sick individual in desperate need of another corporate takeover.

    March 1, 2012 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  11. Real Politics

    He we go again! If the questions have nothing to do with money or illegal immigrants, Romney proves he is so out of touch with the rest of the issues. I am kind of glad that there are no more debates because it gives time for Romney to say things like "I don't care about the poor, I like being able to fire people, I can't have illegal immigrants working for me I am running for President!" Just like his dad he will something so stupid that he will end up losing this election and we want this guy to get elected? For all Romney voters that thinks he has all this experience in the private sector to make a great candidate can you tell what he did that was so awesome because he hasn't even given specifics

    March 1, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  12. V in Chicago

    Darn Liberal Media. You have to quit asking Mitt questions that his "handlers" have not yet given him the correct answer to. Don't you know that this is another "gotcha" question and Mitt hadn't been properly prepared to answer a question that is related to a current ongoing issue? You should have known he would have to check with Rove and others before he knew what he was suppose to say. . .


    Obama 2012!!

    March 1, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. CoJo

    This guy changes his words depending on who he talks to. When he addresses the evangelical conservatives he talks like he is a hard core conservatives who favors religious bigotry along with Santorum/Gingrich. When Romney talks to the middle class people, he tries to make like he's one of them. When he talks to people who are not evangelical, he plays downs the religious bigotry he was doing. And now this article? While there is no way in hell I would vote for Santorum or Gingrich, Romney just lost my vote. He should have stayed down the middle on religous values. He might have gotten more of the non- evangelical conservatives.

    March 1, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  14. Dave

    Well, maybe the question was confusing because Romney didn't know which position he was taking...

    March 1, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  15. Ken

    Why aren't we talking about Jobs, Housing and the Economy ? wake up people and don't let the press drag you around by the nose.

    March 1, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  16. Full Timer

    Ohhh what a tangled web we weave....
    When first we practice to deceive!

    This candidate simply cannot keep up with his lies!

    March 1, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  17. CoJo

    you realize the Blunt bill is just the 1st step. There are moral issues with allowing someone to die in hospital too. Thus would that mean health insurances would not pay the medical bills if someone a spouse/doctor allows a patient to die?

    March 1, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  18. Senor Ed

    Is there an issue that Mittens hasn't taken both sides on? If you don't agree with him today, just wait until tomorrow (or later this afternoon) and you may find his position has changed (again).

    March 1, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. Senor Ed

    Mitt only knows the answers to really important issues like how many Cadillacs his wife drives.

    March 1, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  20. V in Chicago

    @Just Saying – First rule of communication is, if you don't understand a question, you say "I don't understand your question". If Mr. Romney can not get right, what is he going to do when he is talking to leaders from other countries and they are asking quetions.

    As for asking Obama for the JOBS – well, why don't you ask all the Republican/Tea Partiers who took office in 2010 where all the jobs they promised are? And, while you at it, why don't you ask them why they've stood in the way of the two parties working together to make the job situation better? 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.

    March 1, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  21. rosaadriana

    Which was the stumble? When he first said he did not want to intrude into married peoples lives or later when he said he did. This is all getting very confusing.

    March 1, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  22. luckjoe

    Has Obama ever answered a direct question or given a speech without a teleprompter? Not!

    March 1, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  23. strictlydp

    wow the first thing Romney does that I think is right, and its a no no in his party...

    March 1, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  24. Publius Novus

    "Always tell the truth. That makes it easier to remember what you said." Romney ought to take this to heart. I will grant him that the question was not a model of clarity in its entiirety. But the question CLEARLY referred to Blunt-Rubio and CLEARLY asked him whether he supported Blunt-Rubio. He CLEARLY responded that he did not support the bill. No english-speaker could have misunderstood the question to be about "some state law." Nor was the question "rushed." If we should be so unfortunate as to elect Romney, or to have Romney foisted upon us by Mr. Justice Scaliia and his gang, God spare us from a "rushed" 3:00 a.m. telephone call.

    March 1, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  25. Frank A NYC

    "The way the question was asked was confusing," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email"

    So Mitt was confused about his position? Is the GOP trying to throw this election?

    March 1, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
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