July 17th, 2012
06:44 PM ET
11 years ago

Romney surrogate apologizes for saying Obama should 'learn how to be an American'

Irwin, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Mitt Romney's national campaign co-chair John Sununu apologized Tuesday afternoon for saying he wished President Barack Obama would "learn how to be an American" earlier in the day.

Appearing on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," Sununu said he regretted using those words on a campaign conference call.

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"I'm apologizing for using those words," said Sununu. "I did say those words that were there and, frankly, I made a mistake."

Sununu said his point was to criticize Obama for failing as an economic leader and creating a toxic environment for businesses.

"I was making the point that in America, entrepreneurs deserve credit and there is an American formula for creating jobs," said Sununu. "I don't apologize for the idea that this president has demonstrated that he does not understand how jobs are created in America. He thinks that jobs are created by giving grants to your cronies, to your bundlers and your contributors, like he did with Solyndra."

The earlier conference call with reporters came as the Republican presidential candidate continued to battle attacks from Democrats over Romney's business career and tax returns. It also featured heated comments from a group of small business owners, one of whom likened Obama's economic policies to "socialism."

Sununu responded to the characterization in his CNN interview, saying he does not think Obama is a socialist but "he created a feeling among entrepreneurs that he's not a capitalist."

Despite the apology, Sununu continued to bash Obama's economic record.

Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire who is known for being a reliable and colorful attack dog, criticized Obama for his so-called "cheek by jowl" relationship with donors in the initial conference call. Continuing a line of attack pursued by Romney Monday, Sununu accused Obama of steering government loans to political friends.

"He thinks that jobs are created by giving grants to your cronies, to your bundlers and your contributors, like he did with Solyndra. Like he did with Vista (ph), like he did with the wind projects that took jobs out of this country," Sununu told Blitzer. "The common denominator is that they all had owners and investors that were bundlers and contributors to his campaign."

In the call earlier, Sununu revived an attack from the 2008 campaign over Obama's relationship with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, and tied the president to the notorious sphere of Chicago politics.

"He comes out of that that murky world in Chicago where politician and felon has become synonymous," he said. "It is an area where Tony Rezko is a convicted felon and is in prison, and just happened to be a guy that did a smarmy real estate deal with the president, where Rezko pays top dollar and the president pays a discount and the deal is able to be done."

Sununu also charged on the call the president "has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions."

"The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build their businesses from the ground up is how our economy became the envy of the world," Sununu said. "It is the American way, and I wish this president would learn how to be an American."

Asked on the call by a reporter to clarify his comment, Sununu said he had meant to criticize Obama's understanding of the American way of doing business.

"The president has to learn the American formula for creating business," he said.

Responding to Sununu's comments, Obama's campaign declared Team Romney had "officially gone off the deep end."

"The question is what else they'll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith wrote in a statement. "This meltdown and over-the-top rhetoric won't make things better – it only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation."

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Filed under: 2012 • John Sununu • Mitt Romney
soundoff (580 Responses)
  1. ncsteve

    Obama supporters are obsessed with Mitt's money. Romney supporters are obsessed with what Obama is doing with OUR money (and what he is borrowing from China). Romney supporters sign their checks on the front; Obama supporters sign theirs on the back.

    July 17, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  2. Clyde

    Nope according to Johnny the way to be a real America is to steal form the American taxpayers by taking over $600,000 in personal trips on the taxpayers nickle and lying about the trips being government business.

    July 17, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. jmundinger

    It never ceases to amaze me how accurately Republicans describe their worst flaws and then ascribe them to their political opponents. As long as the Republicans insist that major contributors to Crossroads GPS have the right to remain anonymous, they have no moral ground from which to criticize anyone and they certainly have no legitimate basis for calling anyone un-American.

    July 17, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  4. John

    I am so tired of the far right calling anyone with whom they disagree "unAmerican" . Just because you disagree on the role and size of government does not mean that one side is UnAmerican..
    Americans have traditionally taken care of each other, defended the defenseless and generously given aid where aid was needed.
    If you asked me what is really "UnAmerican" I would say 1. Only thinking about yourself and personal profit, 2. doing as little as you can to help your fellow American, 3. Avoiding paying your fair share of taxes, 4. Not working together to solve the problems of the country

    July 17, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Dixie Normous

    The comments from the left are hilarious!!! The way they pick and choose which "facts" they want to use to support their socialist beliefs is mind boggling. Oh, they are facts all right, but I have yet to see one that gives the full story behind those facts. If they did, in most cases their facts would not support them, but the opposition. No wonder none of them on here have any credibility.
    The story that people are commenting on is the result of FOX taking a part of the President's speech and only showing a portion of it. He wa spointing out that, without the roads that are built with government money, a teacher who's salary is paid for with taxpayer dolalrs, etc, that no one can be a success. SOME portion or part of what helps that person be a success came from public investment. If you cannot grasp that concept, then you are clearly delusional and in the back pocket of Uncle Rupert's rightie propaganda machine. You are the one lacking in credibility, for taking such an obvious rightie puff piece seriously.

    July 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. Name bullock

    I think mitten roonmey are right his word also I'm belived that No excuse to presdient obama for 4 year. I think so maybe cutter make trying trouble help fix keep secert with presdient obama

    July 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. Debo G

    Once again we have to listen to the real nasty group in this country and it's not the Democrats. Call Obama nasty for raising legitimate questions regarding the area of supposed expertise of his opponent that his opponent spewed as the reason for electing him. But the Republicans start calling you unAmerican, foreigner, communist, etc. Really GOP, this is all you have?

    July 17, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Wake up people

    And btw, run them tax papers Robmey, and please don't forget that long form birth certificate.... After all, your father wasn't born in the US either.

    OBAMA 2012!

    July 17, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. davec.0121

    Yes, President Obama – learn to be a "true" American. Stash your money in accounts in overseas tax havens. Configure your taxes so that you make $20 million + and only pay 15 % (while the average working stiff pays a significantly higher percentage). Get four houses. Make sure Michelle has a couple of Cadillacs to drive. Be pro-choice – then anti-abortion. Be in favor of gun control – then against it. Support a war – but go to France for two years. Yes, Mr. Obama, you need to become a really red-blooded American like Mitt.

    July 17, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  10. penguin

    People are sick and tired of the Republican's mantra that Obama is not an American.

    We're tired of the "socialist" claim as well. While we are on that topic let's talk about our socialistic policies

    1. Agriculture. We have the best agriculture system in the world where our farmers and ranchers learned from the best land-grant government funded schools in the system while being the most government subsidized business in the country
    2. Public education. Can't get more socialistic than that.
    3 Transportation. Roads are built by the government. Even the great "capitalists" Carnegie and Vanderbilt made huge fortunes in railroads that were built on land given to the industry by the government
    4. Energy. Alcoa wouldn't have existed if not for the energy provided from dams built by the TVA- very socialistic. Even the oil and gas industry wants to extract oil and gas from leases sold to them for next to nothing using government owned property. Their is more oil and gas production now than ever before in the USA, much of it extracted from private property. Let those companies purchase the leases from private property owners or at least lease government property at its fair market price.

    Republicans don't want a "free market " system , they want the government to provide the property and subsidies to make their industries more profitable so that the CEO's make 100s of millions off the labor of minimum wage earners

    Our Nation has always been economically prosperous because of the mix of free market capitalism and socialism

    July 17, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. Governor 47th in Job Creation (excluding jobs off-shored to China)

    And by the way Willard, the tax return issue is not and will not be going away until we see 12 years worth of returns.

    July 17, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. vinci

    As to how C N N managed to write this story without reporting on Obama's INSULT to business owners which set off this Sununu comment is UNBELIEVABLE. WOW

    July 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. Joe

    What is a real american? The obese loud obnoxious lout you see overseas who think everyone should be pandering to them just because they are american???? NO THANKS.

    July 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    President Obama is being an American very well.
    I wish that Sununu would learn how to live in this century.

    July 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Woman In California


    Good for you Mr. Sununu! Call it like it is! OBAMA SUCKS!

    I can see the FEAR on these Boards. Just look at the above ignorance.

    July 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. Tom from Canonsburg

    Don't all of you find it interesting that when GOP candidates do something to each other during the primary season and then when a Dem does the exact same thing they call foul. Hmmm!

    July 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  17. Nanci

    Wow...........These jerks have no shame. The best thing an American can do in this coming election, is to get rid of as many republicans as possible. They have stood in the way of our recovery for three long years. Just think how much better America could be doing with a little help instead of obstruction at every turn. Talk about being a good American, these people care about nothing but power. Hopefully they will be reminded with a very loud voice come November.

    July 17, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. joe

    Weren't the Republicants just the other day whining about negative ads?

    July 17, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  19. humberto

    No matter what Sununu says , Bush and others still aided and abeited a kidnapping for illicit political gain .

    July 17, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  20. Barry from Wisconsin

    I suppose this crap is news, but who cares what a "surrogate" says?

    The so-called small business owners talking about socialism assures me that they will stay very small – like their uninformed minds. They have NO CLUE what socialism really is.

    July 17, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  21. ghostriter

    Funny how republicans are still using the stimulus funded outsourcing nonsense that was debunked by the sme group, on the same page discredits Obama's attack on Romney's oursourcing.

    July 17, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  22. Mary in AZ

    This is getting to be ridiculous!!!!

    July 17, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  23. classless and nasty

    This is another perfect example of desperate and dirty.The scary thing is....he probably believes what he is saying!!!
    What happened to Trump and all his birther buddies? Remember the loud rantings of " My people have found proof Obama is not an American!! You wait and see the stunning proof I have...I HAVE PROOF.....you just wait....um....FOX and Donald....we're still waiting....

    July 17, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. BADGUY

    What an IDIOT! Unless you're promoting the right of the top 1% to plunder the bottom 99%, you're NOT a REAL

    July 17, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  25. REG in AZ

    They do have nerve, not any tact or conscience but a lot of nerve. It is amazing to see how many of the Republican politicians display the same personality characteristics. There is Boehner, Cantor, Ryan, McConnell, Bachmann and really several others, even going back to Cain, Perry, Santorum and including Cheney, Rove, Norquist and even the likes of the sociopathic duo of Palin and GWBush. It is as if they have a training camp for them, maybe “The Karl Rove School of Self-Serving Obnoxiousness”. They all literally display a stubborn, arrogant, bold and obnoxious self-focused demeanor that says “my way or no way”, without compassion, consideration or conscience. It is as if someone drilled them to believe that intimidation and stubbornness are the way to prevail and compromise and cooperation are just weaknesses; no where is there any recognition of other than their interests or for the possibility the other side has some merit. It is what “the money” is buying, a complete and stubborn, unyielding focus on the interests of “the few”, in exchange for the strong support, with the power, influence and money provided, to allow concentration on political ambitions without concern or conscience for the costs to the people – the people are just “pawns” to be conned and manipulated. Their consistency totally indicates they intentionally strive to achieve those characteristics ... but what does it say for those who support and vote for them?

    July 17, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
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