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. Southerner01

    I am not a Romney supporter, but that question was worded incredibly deceptively. Nobody is tryign to ban contraception or allow employers to ban employees from using contraception. The amendment merely gives faith based institutions the right not to have to PAY for the contraception directly.If the women or their husbands/boyfriends,etc. want their own contraception, they can buy it. If the employee is not ok with that, find an employer who is not faith based.

    February 29, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  2. Mhogg

    He was against it, then he was for it. He does more flip flops then and gymnast.

    February 29, 2012 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  3. Nadeem

    Romney is just awful

    February 29, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  4. Ml

    Overheard... (Mitt talking to Karl Rove at his Super PAC) WHAT am i supposed to say again?

    February 29, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  5. GTA

    "So, President Romney, you have 10 seconds to decide whether to reverse your earlier decision to recall the bombers or else you can issue another order to decide to proceed."

    Romney: "Yes".

    Romney 15 seconds later: "I didn't understand the question...."

    February 29, 2012 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  6. sick of republican phonies

    Mitt Romney's mouth- the gift that keeps on giving.

    February 29, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. Squigman

    He knows not what he wants, he just wants to be in charge so he can tell you what to do. What a pile.

    February 29, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  8. logicnLA

    What stupid legislation! If someone does not want to use it, don't! Where is the law against condoms? Isn't it interesting the things Republicans find important.
    BTW- how many people would be laid off if the stop selling Birth control pills? Is this a jobs bill for these "my way or no way" politicians?

    February 29, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  9. Kristina

    The Blunt Amendment is a horrible thing. It puts a person's health care 100% completely in the hands of their employer. My boss should NOT be deciding which medication it is ok for me to take. This legislation is written so broadly that it would allow any employer to deny medication for virutally any reason. The GOP really has it out for female reproductive organs! Back off!

    February 29, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  10. AmFem

    This man only appears to be presidential. He's got the looks, but has no clue about BEING presidential. How many gaffs will we have to apologize for when it comes to foreign policy issues and insulting foreign dignitaries. Dufus.

    February 29, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  11. Jack Ramsey

    What constitutes a moral objection would seem to be difficult to define. A religious objection would seem to be fairly obvious although I am not even sure about that. What if an employer said they objected on moral grounds because they believed their only obigation was to pay a salary and nothing else? Could someone start the Church of Unfettered Free Enterprise and say it is against their religion to provide anything, sick leave, vacation or medical insurance?

    February 29, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  12. vic , nashville ,tn

    Most conservatives says Romney can’t beat Obama they are right

    February 29, 2012 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  13. Sid Prejean

    One of the lesser-known requirements for the President of the United States is to "engage brain before opening mouth." A second requirement is not to blush or back away when you get caught telling the truth.

    February 29, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  14. TK

    Romney is umimpressive as a cnadidate and a coward. He does not have the spine to stand up for his beliefs.

    February 29, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  15. Reggie from LA

    A patch here...a lie there...It's OK. That's the way the game is played. Santorum wants to get "blacks off welfare". Then later says something to the effect of "I didn't mean to say blacks. I misspoke. What really happened is I kinda stammered or somethin', blah, blah mumble. Let's just forget that and move on to the next state". You see folks. All you have to do is hire an overpaid crew of idiots who tell you how to lie about what you just said hours ago and you don't have to worry about a thing.

    February 29, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  16. NameNina Mosley

    Wow! First time asking a politician a question? That question was so very poorly worded.

    February 29, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  17. CoJo

    Who defines moral grounds? As every knows that is not a static definition.

    February 29, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  18. Chris

    Oh. For a minute I thought that a Republican candidate was advocating the government mind it's own business and stay out of people's private affairs. My mistake.

    February 29, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  19. Frank from New Orleans

    II guess if he becomes President, and he misunderstands the daily intel report, and mistakenly launches a nuclear strike, He can claim that he didn't understand the report. For instance, today he could have misunderstood the N. Korean agreement regarding food assistance for a stop of certain nuclear pursuits. Instead of thinking N. Korea was going to suspend these nuclear activities, he thought it said N. Korea was going to launch a nuclear strike. I guess the next war we get into could be because of a Presidential misunderstanding, instead of manufactured evidence.

    February 29, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  20. TR808

    Mitt why do you want to be president. Think of the headache! You made your money, go hang out in the Cayman Islands, relax, enjoy retirement!!

    February 29, 2012 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  21. ddrew78

    Of course he misunderstood the question. Wouldn't be any fun otherwise.

    February 29, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  22. Jon

    Guess what Rachel...with the country teetering on the cliff facing total financial colapse under Obama, the last thing GOP voters are worried about is contraception

    February 29, 2012 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  23. Mike S.

    That's what I like about this model of candidate, The MittMan 2012GOP 2.0. It can transform itself into any political persuasion at any time without blinking an eye or chipping a kevlar fingernail.

    February 29, 2012 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  24. John Kackman

    Whats wrong Romney? Can't figure out what side you're on?

    Or maybe you aren't allowed to say what you actually believe and are just taking marching orders from the party?

    February 29, 2012 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  25. Robert (Atlanta)

    If this is an example of how Romney handles pressure on the campaign trail, what makes rational people believe he has the character, stamina, and skill to handle the pressure of being president? Why do people want this lose cannon in the White House? Only GOP fanatics and misguided zealots could believe that Romney is a better option than Obama.

    February 29, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
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