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. Namecvz

    women will not come out to vote for him. He lost them for sure today.

    February 29, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. Jim

    He can't even keep up with his two face psychopathic lies, he forgot which face he was putting on this week.

    February 29, 2012 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  3. WhereIsPalin

    Once again.....A candidate has the right to say what he wants, as long as someone from his campaign can declare later that he meant it.......or he meant the opposite.

    February 29, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  4. Joe

    Pandering and backwalking at it's maximum extent. This guy will say absolutely ANYTHING to get you to vote for him to be president of the US. He is the poster child for untrustworthyness. I'm sure his initial statement reflects his true feelings on this subject, but he has to please the wingnuts of his party to even have a chance of being nominated. What a sad sad sad sd sad sad joke the Republican party has become. I hope November's election puts an end to their existence, so that a real, thoughtful party can rise from the ashes and leave the John Birchers and the Tea Baggers out to twist in the wind, precisely where they belong. Truly a disgusting spectacle.

    February 29, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  5. Thinks2010

    This bill would allow any employer to eliminate any kind of coverage he/she does not "believe in". While it would most likely be used as an excuse to eliminate things related to women's health care like contraceptive coverage or pre-natal care for single women, it might also be use to eliminate treatment for STD's, smoking or drinking related diseases, blood transfusions' etc., in other words, anything that any employer can claim a religious excuse for eliminating. This proposed law does not restrict this to businesses run by religious groups. It allows any employer to restrict coverage based on his/her religious beliefs. If this bill passes, be prepared to pay a lot more out of pocket for your health care, and be prepared to have the type and quality of your care determined by the whims of your employer.

    February 29, 2012 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  6. jack

    So if a persons religion bans blood transfusions a child needs one, the only thing that can happen is God cures it or it DIES. If the bill pases the parents have the right, and the courts can not interfer!

    February 29, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  7. Namecvz

    i think he just lost the women vote today

    February 29, 2012 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  8. sayer

    Hoo boy, he averages about one of these a week. He's going to have to get more creative with the excuses down the road...

    February 29, 2012 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  9. Dan

    These are not errors. These are simply Mitt Romney expressing his true beliefs.

    Look at his history as Governor and the facts are clear.
    He repeatedly signed liberal legislation.
    He created more state jobs than private sector jobs.

    There is a reason so many Democrats turned out and voted for Romney in New Hampshire.
    There is also a reason so many moderate Republicans who believe in abortion voted for him in Michigan.

    February 29, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  10. KC Yankee

    You gotta feel sorry for the guy. He just can't seem to get it right. These moral issues are such slippery ground for a guy who doesn't really believe in anything except that he should be president.

    February 29, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  11. Debbie

    Of all bills he misunderstood? Really? My take is Romney can't remember what the puppet masters told him. Then he remembered. Corporations are people and women are second class citizens.

    February 29, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  12. DrCole

    I would have had a hard time answering that question during an interview as well. It took me 3 times reading that question before I could truly figure out what was being asked.

    February 29, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  13. pastapharian

    I can't stand any of the GOP candidates, but this seems like a complete non-story.

    February 29, 2012 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  14. Thinks2010

    I am an independent voter who has sometimes voted mixed tickets, however, I will no longer be voting for Republicans. Another poster, WeatherGranny2x (if I remember correctly), commented something like: Republicans believe in small government that fits in a woman's va-gina. Well, I don't want the government or my employer dictating the care of my va-gina.

    February 29, 2012 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  15. Holly in Minneapolis

    So here's a question I haven't seen answered yet–how come most insurance plans cover infant circumcision, but those same plans don't cover birth control? Circumcision is not considered a necessary medical procedure by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and is purely a personal and often religious-motivated procedure, but most companies still cover the $300-$1000 procedure.

    February 29, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  16. zimbot

    Yes, Romney should stand on the side and keep his mouth shut while his wife does the talking. I think that would help.

    February 29, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  17. Fair Taxes

    This is just one more step in the GOP's plan to strip American workers of more and more benefits.

    Employers will simply become Christian Scientists and claim that ALL medical treatment is against their religion, so they don't need to provide any healthcare.

    February 29, 2012 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  18. Charlie from the North

    Mr. Romney would like to publicly apologize to the rabid right wingers for actually having a thought supportive of the rights of folks who would like to have sex but not a child every time they do. Oh well Mitt that can't be too many people can it? I am glad you abandoned us, but then I am a big Obama supporter.

    February 29, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  19. beevee

    With an MBA and JD degrees and experience as a successful (rich) CEO it is funny how Mitt Romney bumbles and fumbles to simple questions from reproters. His handlers should tape his mouth when they are not around him.

    February 29, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  20. iadadman

    Hi, I'm Mitt Romney. I just really really wanna be president. Why can't people just get that?

    February 29, 2012 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  21. Bill G.

    Good lord. He's like a poodle on a leash. He reacts honestly the first time, then, at the "urging" of his party, goes completely the other way. If you require a spine in your President, Romney is not for you.

    February 29, 2012 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  22. ChrisG

    Of course Romney is for contraception . He is a moderate but has to pander to the right wing nut jobs to get the nomination.

    February 29, 2012 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  23. carrotroot

    Is Romney not following what's happening in his own party? Or is he afraid to say what's on his mind in fear of alienating the Republican base? Because the Blunt-Rubio bill has received plenty of media attention because it's a pretty controversial bill - and the reporter accurately explained it to him when he initially asked him for his views on it. Even if he didn't know, he should at least have known that the party's rising star Rubio had attached his name to it, and that opposing it would put him directly against his own party in an election year.

    February 29, 2012 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  24. Michael

    Poor Mitt, he actually is a sensible moderate Republican, many Americans supported that Mitt. Now he is trying to please extremists on the fringe and is ending up pleasing no one because the extremists have their darling in loonie tunes Satan , errr, I mean Santorum.

    February 29, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  25. Todd Fisher

    He can't keep up with his own positions.

    February 29, 2012 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
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