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. Fair is Fair

    "Envy, greed, jeaslousy, and coveteousness are not respectors of any class, race, nor religion."

    March 13, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. Scott Ramsey

    Folks, I hate to break it to you, but our country has nearly always been run by the elite, and that's since our inception. I remember a political science professor in college (a Republican, actually) who said that our founding fathers were by and large "the well-bred, the well-fed, and the well-read." Mitt Romney does nothing but continue this trend, but why is that bad?

    Does it really matter if he prefers caviar to the Wendy's drive-through? How does it affect his ability to lead by being friends with billionaires?

    More to the point – when was the last time a middle-class good ol' boy was elected to be our President? Clinton liked going to McDonalds (and he was raised white trash), but he didn't exactly work for minimum wage, did he?

    Honestly, I haven't decided whom I'm going to vote for yet. Maybe Romney (he will be the nominee), maybe Obama (though his hope and change mantra hasn't really panned out), but one thing is sure. The size of the candidate's bank account has nothing to do with his ability or inability to lead.

    March 13, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  3. Chad

    I'm not even a registered republican and even I can see how ridiculously slanted this piece is! Please CNN have a little perspective. This has to be about the worst copy writing I have ever seen in my life. What is the point? Oh yeah, Romney is rich. Yes, we get it. Now please in the future be substantive. Oh and by the way I make less than 6 figures but I have a number of people that are multimillionaires, does that make me a bad person? According to CNN it does.

    March 13, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    @ RudyG:"When the rest of us learn to take the risks and work as smart as he has, all within the rules, we can be there too. Get it envy nation?"

    We all can be there? All of us? Sounds like socialism to me. So, I should conclude that Mitt Romney is really a closet socialist who wants to make sure we do as well as him? What happened to the "free market"? What happened to winners and losers? It also sounds like you want more regulation as well, if " all within the rules" is to be believed: please square that with your objectivist leanings, please. The righties are so filled with hate they can't even keep their ideology ( such as it is) consistent. We don't have envy, its a mixture of pity and amusement.

    March 13, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  5. ALPHA

    CNN is trying to paint the Republicans as rich, fat and sassy. However a few extremly wealthy Libs come to mind as I read this garbage.

    Barbara Streisand, preaches to us to conserve resorces Mother Earf's resorces. Trouble is she spent over $22,000.00 watering her lawn last year.

    Bon Jovi, tells us that we all must do our share, we all should be happy to contribute to the government programs for the good of all the folk. Trouble is, he fought and got his his 6 acre estate in Joisey, zoned as a bee farm. Therefore he gets agricultural tax breaks, and in fact paid less that $150.00 in property taxes last year.

    Harrison Ford warns us of man made global warming. Gloom and doom if we don't stop. Trouble is, he has said many times that he has jumped on his personal jet and flown up the coast in California ready for this.....wait for it.....for a great cheesburger.

    George Soros, hush money to his young lady friend. Albert Gore, the leader of the global warming hoax, drives SUV's and perfers jet travel. I could go on and on.

    March 13, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  6. Steven Bannister

    What about Obama's millionaire and bIllionaire friends? Like you know, half of Hollywood? And Warren Buffet? And the crooks at Goldman Sachs that put him into office? And the billionaire king maker George Soros?

    Let's stop kidding ourselves. Obama is SURROUNDED by millionaires and billionaires and TAKES MONEY from them every day. This is not exclusive to Mitt Romney.

    March 13, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  7. Harry Baxter

    Seriously, does this man know anyone who has less than $20,000,000? How can we expect someone who has never met a poor person, except the Illegal Alien who used to cut his lawn, to sympathize with "The Great Unwashed"! If Willard wins any of the Deep South Primaries this week, it will only prove that 400 years of inbreeding can't be reversed.

    March 13, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  8. sayer

    it's not that he is friends with billionaires. It's the fact that he brings it up when there is no need to. We all know people that are like that we shake our head everytime they do it..

    March 13, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. Four and The Door

    vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012
    ... This is not really much of a story by the "evil left wing media" to harp on.
    I couldn't agree with you more. Here's my point. Mitt Romney is so damn qualified for the job of American President right now and so squeaky clean because of his life values and strong morals, the only thing the media can dig up to flog him with is the fact that he has been intensely successful and lives a life of privilege. Is that all you got?!?! Is that the best you can do?!?! If this is the case, Mr. Romney is on his way to a January 2013 inauguration. And I do think this is the case. Romney 2012.

    March 13, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  10. Eric M

    Seems like a stretch by CNN to throw mud at Romney. He never used the word "Billionaire Friends". Even if he did, are they really close friends?

    I once heard a story about a CEO of a company. His net worth was approximately $850 million. When asked what keeps him coming to work because he clearly has enough money for the rest of his life and then some. His reply was that his "friends" who were CEOs of other companies were all billionaires and that he felt like he needed to hit that Billionaire status before retiring. Were these other CEOs really friends, or were they more piers who he met at various tech trade shows, speaking engagements, etc. My guess is that they were not really friends, but rather people he most certainly met and had conversations with but never shared a chummy birthday wish.

    This article is a poor excuse for journalism.

    March 13, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  11. Patriot

    Mittens wife doesn't consider herself wealthy. Multiple million dollar homes, hundereds of thousands in cars. Each child has 250 million dollar trust fund...not wealthy at all. These people are so far gone they don't even know there is a forest.

    March 13, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  12. JAnn87

    You know, it's not so much that he said his friends are rich. It's the fact that he can't get it through his brain that saying that OFFENDS people. He just keeps saying it! I know politicians have people writing and researching everything for them (my cousin was a speechwriter–she and the staff looked up everything–the person they were writing for only read their notes 20 minutes before the speech.), but at some point you have to thing he and his staff are either idiots, insensitive, or just really old and out of touch.

    March 13, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  13. BostonianNThe WoodlandsTx

    You can tell how DENSE some on the right are. No reading comprehension whatsoever.

    It's not WRONGto have billionaire friends. The point is Mittens by bringing up the points of his rich friends,all his hirses and cars,gives the appearance of someone who cannot relate to the everyday american worker.

    The american worker who's friends may be cops,fire fighters,pipefitters,longshoresman, plant operators, 7-11 clerk,waitress,bell hop,gocery store bagger,etc

    Those people make up america. I'm sure they can all relate to mitt knowing NASCAR owners, as well as Jerry Jones and hanging out talking about their porfolios. It's about perception. The perception being that Romney has never lived an average life,worried able bills,food or a job. And Romney doesn't know or relate to anyone who does.

    So no it's not wrong that he's knows those people.It's the perception he gives by saying those things.

    Reading comprehension is your friend conservative bloggers on here.

    March 13, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  14. phugoid

    this is a big deal?
    I suppose that John Kerry, Hillary/Bill Clinton, even NObama dont have wealthy friends?
    maybe someone at CNN can check and see who George Soros's "poor" friends are!

    March 13, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. Cindy

    This guy is a name dropper. He doesn't know that most people don't like name droppers. It means he thinks he is better than anyone else.

    March 13, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Malory Archer

    "He has intelligence, know how and the ability to help jump start our country"

    How is his knowing football team owners any indication of his "intelligence, know how and ability to jump start our country?

    March 13, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  17. Woman In California

    @ Darlene

    IF you think most of us are envious because of Willard's wealth–you are not only judgmental you are one of his freaks who believes ANYTHING the man is selling. I could care less about his wealth or who his friends are but I do care that he wants to send our sons and daughters out to war while he protects his sons (at all costs). Not only is this man terrible for this country in his thinking – he is a self centered lair who only cares about money. Willard is probably losing his soul everyday and all he can think of is money. Sad if you ask me.

    March 13, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  18. Dave

    A guy who has NEVER been a "rgular fellow" wants us to believe that he and his Billionaire friend have a clue how most of Americans live. Hire another illegal, Mitt.

    March 13, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    "Each child has 250 million dollar trust fund...not wealthy at all."
    Ummmmmmm.... no they don't. Not even close. Cite your sources where you got this information – otherwise, continue to spread your lies if you must, but you will be called out on them when you do... mmmmmmmmmmmkay?

    March 13, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. It's okay to have rich friends.

    You have to really be a hater to criticize someone for having rich friends.

    March 13, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  21. It's okay to have rich friends.

    I wish they were my friends. Apparently some people would have a problem with me if they were, though.

    March 13, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  22. Steve

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    What is wrong with the Media? Has anyone asked President Obama about his relationships with the likes of Warren Buffet? Georgie Soros? Penny Pritzke? Bill Gates? All his golf buddies? I could go on and on but why? All you trolls just regurgitate what the media tell you. Can't think for yourselves. The media won't even ask about the relationship with the Harvard professor in the Breitbart video. Americans aren't blind, we see what's going on and we don't like it.

    March 13, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  23. Four and The Door

    You know, it's not so much that he said his friends are rich. It's the fact that he can't get it through his brain that saying that OFFENDS people....
    Really? Why is that? I would not ask him to pretend he runs in different circles or that he hasn't been successful in his life's work. Just like I wouldn't ask Michelle Obama to pretend she isn't going to the London Olympics when 99% of the rest of us have no chance of doing that because we work for a living. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to work for a living right now. My point? Get over it. I don't have a problem with people who are who they are. That's life.

    March 13, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  24. Laverne

    @Steven Bannister: Obama is not trying to run away from his wealthy friends, Romney is. So the issue is not Obama it is Romney. He should stop trying to be something he is not and be who he really is and the fact that he is afraid to do that is his problem, not America's.

    March 13, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  25. Willie James

    Interesting story, but rich dudes know rich dudes. It is well established theat Mr. Romney and the GOP are not the party of the middle and lower classes: He is running to assure the big money interests are taken care of. Period.

    March 13, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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