Romney calls billionaire football team owners friends
March 12th, 2012
07:21 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney calls billionaire football team owners friends

(CNN) – They're wealthy - not millionaires, but billionaires. They're football fans - so much so, that they own teams. And they're the subjects of yet another misstep which Mitt Romney may wish he didn't make.

Romney has spent recent days working to relate to southern voters, talking up grits, saying "y'all," visiting the Daytona 500 – and on Monday, he campaigned with comedian Jeff Foxworthy, known for his "redneck" jokes. But he stumbled back into the rich and out-of-touch narrative on Monday, when he volunteered in a radio interview that he is friends with at least two billionaire football team owners.

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Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was fielding a friendly question about star quarterback Peyton Manning, who was cut from the Indianapolis Colts last week. He said he hoped Manning would not picked up by his hometown team, the New England Patriots.

And that's when he stepped in it.

"I got a lot of good friends – the owner of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, both owners are friends of mine," he said on a syndicated radio program hosted by Paul Finebaum.

Woody Johnson, the Jets owner, is a major backer of the Republican Party and GOP candidates, and Stephen Ross, of the Dolphins, hosted a fundraiser for Romney in January.

But most Americans would not call someone of his wealth a friend, and some who will vote on Tuesday in Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi may see him as out of touch. He found himself in the same situation after a February visit to the Daytona 500 race, when he admitted he does not follow the sport closely.

"Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners," Romney told a reporter for the Associated Press in February.

But besides the verbal gaffe, there is a difference between Romney's NASCAR gaffe and his football fumble: Romney handled the question like a fan.

"Well, you know, I'm surprised to hear that Denver's thinking about him," Romney said. "I mean, it's – they're – I – yeah, I don't want him in our, in our neck of the woods, let's put it that way. I don't want [Manning] to go to Miami or the Jets.

"But let's keep away from New England so that Tom Brady has a better shot of picking up a championship for us," he said.

– CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby contributed to this report.

Also see:

Gingrich sins 'well short of the glory of God'

Santorum's war on teleprompters

Gibbs: Kansas was 'instructive' for Romney

Former presidential candidates play pundit

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (151 Responses)
  1. Dree

    At least Woody Johnson and Stephen Ross are better friends to have than Bill Mahr.

    March 13, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  2. Top_News

    Wow. The media sure is searching for stories. LOL I've never known of a Joe-6-pack to run for president. How quickly the media forgot about all the Hollywood elites who stood behind obama when he campaigned in 2008 and all those who are now making huge donations to obama's $1 billion reelection war chest.

    March 13, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. Debby

    I love these misteps as CNN calls them about Romney. Obama has more billionaire's in his pocket than all those 4 candidates combined. People are so blind when it comes to Obama its sad.

    March 13, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    Its always interesting how the righties are defending Romney's ham-fisted attempts to connect with regular people, while slamming Obama for fundraising in Hollywood: who has more small donations at this stage, Obama or Romney? Its Obama by a country mile. He has a base of support among regular people, while Romney has relied on big donors. No number of comments praising cheesy grits will alter that fact.

    March 13, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  5. Four and The Door

    Once again rich guy Romney proves how out of touch he is with ordinary Americans. He has absolutely no idea what it's like to live without wealth, since he was born into it.
    Having successful friends does not indicate being out-of-touch with anything. And being born poor does not give anyone an advantage when it comes to running the federal government of a country of 350 million people and having the largest and most sophisticated economy the world has ever known. Considering the job, I would look for someone who has a strong demonstrated competence operating within the economy and maybe some government and budget leadership experience. Romney 2012!

    March 13, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  6. Kyle

    He's a Patriots fan. I knew there was something terribly wrong with Romney.

    March 13, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. Geo

    I know a lot of people who dislike Obama, and maybe for good reasons, but look at "plan B" if Obama is not elected. A unconcealed plutarchy, the continual decline of the middle class while the rich achieve unprecedented wealth and power in this country, the fall of the social programs that protect the young, the poor and the elderly, the eagerness for land wars in Asia even after the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the decline of women to a second class status. the threats to erase the traditional line between church and state, and the decay of moral standards as exemplified by Limbaugh. In the past, countries, even great countries, have destroyed themselves. History provides no guarentees. Obama and the Democrats have their problems to be sure, but they are, maybe unfortunately, the better bet.

    March 13, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    No one is criticizing Mitt Romney's wealth. People are critcizing the effects that wealth has had on Mitt Romney. There is a self-portrait emerging of Mitt Romney that shows that he has lived in a bubble. He lives in a world just as foreign to middle class voters as the middle class life style is to Mitt Romney.

    In Romney Reality, it would seem that everyone is very, very wealthy. Nothing wrong with that. Birds of a feather stick together. But, Mitt Romney's problem is that he says stuff that says that he has viewed the other birds in the forest only from a safe distance.

    People who perform services for him are not friends, but people to be fired if they do less than the best job. When he goes to Michigan, he is pleased to see that the grounds keepers have kept the trees at that right height. When most people make a rhetorical bet it is for five bucks. In Romney Reality, a rhetorical bet is for ten thousand dollars. And the list goes on.

    There is nothing wrong with the life Mitt Romney has led, nor the wealth that he has amassed. But, there is a whole lot wrong with someone who seems to have lived their life in a decadent bubble being POTUS. I hear echoes of Herman Cain's words as chilling warning of things to come; that if you don't have a job, and are not rich by now, then it is your own fault.

    March 13, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  9. m

    lame media overkill. all the media is making a story out of nothing. I could care less about how many rich friends romney has. We are all intelligent adults. People who are swayed be stuff like this can't think for themselves, end of story. I want a smart, intelligent, successful person as president. I don't need him to be my friend and have a beer with me. High school politics at its best.

    March 13, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. Michael

    I am a Republican who will vote for Obama this election in Romney is the Republican nominee. Unfortunately for our party, Obama is the lesser of two evils.

    March 13, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  11. GW

    J Lo owns a team. Let's take her money and give it to the poor. Since when did it become an evil thing to be successful? It use to be success was encourged and lazyness discouraged. Envy, greed, jeaslousy, and coveteousness are not respectors of any class, race, nor religion. Oh, by the way- I love J Lo!

    March 13, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  12. Laurie in Spokane

    Romney just can't keep himself from stepping in it can he? I love it – just helps Obama's campaign all the more, and really shows how out of touch Romney is with regular people no matter how many times he says differently. Hope he keeps it up.

    March 13, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  13. curt

    Romney was like Bush. Born with a silver boot in his mouth. Did he pay for his Harvard education? No. Obama is no better. In spite of what he says, have we seen any of the wall streeters go to jail over the failures? No. Has the corporate management been held responsible for the fiscal mess they put us in? No.

    Both Dems and Republicans parties are corrupt. Republicans in corporate pockets and Democrats in Union pockets, leaving the regular citizen out in the cold. Too bad Ron Paul isn't going to make it. He would fix a lot of this mess.

    March 13, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. Big George in Big D

    Obama mama – as usual, you are sooooooooooo out of touch with reality! Do you think your boy doesn't have any rich and famous donors? Get real. Better yet, get smart!

    March 13, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. Captain Awesome

    Ah, jeez give it a rest CNN and stop taking orders from the White House. We get it already- Romney is rich ok? Can we move on and vet him based on his credentials?

    March 13, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  16. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Ah, yes. Like I said in an earlier post. Mitt is afflicted with the same condition as Dubya. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth. Every time he seems on a roll to explain why he should be selected by the Hoi Polloi as their Celestial Eminence (sorry, I mean Presidential nominee), he once again comes out with a statement that shows he is not only divorced from the common man he tries to reach out to, but also divorced from the bottom 99% of the top 1%. Poor Mitt. At this rate, Ricko could take enough delegates to make the Republican Convention take a serious look if they SHOULD support him, especially if there is no clear winner of the delegate count.

    March 13, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Nothing wrong with having good friend

    March 13, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    Mitt Romney is what he is...a wealthy guy with wealthy friends that really has no concept of what it is to be middle class less known poor. The press will keep hounding him on these so called gaffes but it's really pointless. Those who are going to vote for him will do so regardless and those who don't vote for him will not regardless. This is not really much of a story by the "evil left wing media" to harp on.

    March 13, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. rick

    Obama's biggest backer Warren Buffet, could buy every team in the NFL, and still be one of the wealthiest men in the world. Pretty scary that there is so much influence in politics.

    March 13, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  20. Larry L

    @Four and The Door

    "I don't get what the point of this story. Is Mitt Romney supposed to shun his friends now or somehow feel bad that he has friends who also happen to be very successful Americans? "
    Of course you don't get the point of the story. People are concerned that the Republicans have created a political party that panders to the wealthy and only uses hot-button social issues to get votes from working people. This is of course true. When Romney appears completely unable to relate with working people, or even effectively pretend to relate, he reinforces this concern.

    March 13, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  21. Candle

    Has President Obama ever confessed to having billionaire friends? If so, was he called out? Labeled "out of touch?" Is confessing one has billionaire friends really a story? Is it really proof that a person is "out of touch?" This is hack reporting. You can do better CNN.

    March 13, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  22. B

    Obama is at 41 % in the NYT poll and THIS is what's on the political ticker? Romney knows Billionaires .. really?! I am stunned.

    Obama is surrounded by Billionaires and Millionaires constantly .... again who cares!

    Maybe CNN should post something ... I don't know .. relevant.

    Maybe that's why CNN is fighting for 3rd ...

    March 13, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. Sniffit

    "Romney is rich ok? Can we move on and vet him based on his credentials?"

    You won't like that either.

    March 13, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  24. Geltman

    Romneys wife said that she dpesn't consider herself wealthy in comparison to their billionaire friends. I can entirely understand that. A quarter of a billion yields a terrific lifestyle with a couple of nice homes, club membership, and a few very nice cars. A billion or multi-billion yields a private jet or two, multiple homes and a wide assortment of investments. It must be nice. If Romney wins election, and it won't happen, he'll reach billionaire status eventually. He's a very ambitious man.

    March 13, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  25. Sniffit

    "Having successful friends does not indicate being out-of-touch with anything."

    Yes, but you know what does? Talking about your rich friends to a crowd of middle-class voters who you are trying to convince to give you the presidenial nomination as a man who will look out for their needs.

    March 13, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
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