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. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    So what is the rightwing definion of a true American? Calling the President a muslim, a socialist, a communist, a community organizer, calling for him to show his birth certificate, attacking his family and calling for their assassination and saying things like if Obama is re-elected you would either be dead or in jail, calling Hispanics illegals and Muslim- Americans terrorists and calling for the execution of gays and putting crosshairs on Democrats' districts and so on?

    July 17, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  2. snowdogg

    Sununu – the New Hampshire N A Z I

    July 17, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  3. Dude in Colorado

    Wah! Romney should apologize for what that man said! Wah! It's demeaning to a Presidential candidate to stoop so low! Wah!

    (Ya see where I'm going with this?)

    July 17, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. joe

    Obama is un-American, and therefore we should vote for a man who is a member of a cult based on the delusional rantings of a 19th Century charlatan?

    July 17, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |

    What an IDIOT! Unless you're promoting the right of the top 1% to plunder the bottom 99%, you're NOT a REAL American? Sounds like a Joe McCarthyism to me. Voting for ANY Republican is likr voting for ANOTHER nail in your coffin!

    July 17, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    So how can Obama learn to be white? According to the republicans only white amercans are real americans.

    July 17, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  7. Clint

    Garbage like this is one of the reasons I left the Republican Party. When they can't state facts, they resort to race baiting innuendos.

    July 17, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  8. JohnRJohnson

    You know what is unAmerican? Calling the President of the United States unAmerican.

    July 17, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. TIM

    GOPers still just keep lying about Obama trying to get people's focus away from all of their own incredible greed. They don't care who they hurt or step on as long as they keep making their profits and get to keep telling people how they should live their lives. GOPers are a disease that need to be delt with and wiped out.

    July 17, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  10. livingston

    Yea, yea, yea. Republicans hate the President. We've heard it all before. Now will you knuckleheads get back to work! I for one am getting sick of hearing it. They now sound like the annoying mosquito in the middle of the night.

    July 17, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  11. DaveC

    Obama needs to learn how to be an American? Huh? Where does the Republican party get these idiots?

    Let's address the (repeated) small business issue. The repeated complaint by small business owners that taxes, federal regulation and the repeated intrusion by the federal government in general is causing their businesses to fail (or at least not do as well as they want). I have been a CPA since 1986 and have advised countless small businesses on their practices and have found that small business success comes down to two things:

    1. The owners do not act like their business is a hobby.
    2. Pay the business first, not themselves (being the owners).

    Notice I did not mention the federal government in any of the above. That is because the federal government doesn't matter! In many cases the only reason the small businesses I have went into had any type of financial paperwork is because they had to file taxes (notice I didn't say it was right). In 95% of the failures I have witnessed it was because of plain and simple bad management. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Small business owners are just like farmers; they whine about everything. It is either too sunny or too cloudy. Too rainy or too dry. If they treat their business like a business they will be successful. Most don't and most aren't.

    July 17, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  12. Jason

    Why is Romney associating himself with this idiot?

    July 17, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  13. Bill

    Yes. And the other party has such a cleaner record, doesn't it clint?

    July 17, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  14. G Smith

    Sununu...What a right wing baiting low life....

    July 17, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. TAK

    Hey Big John, do you want to know how one can act un-American? Try firing American workers from their jobs and then sending these jobs overseas just so you get a big bonus. That is Un-American! Heck, that is economic treason.

    July 17, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. realitybites

    Ancient Texan huh? I believe it. Go back to the McCarthy Era you dinosaur.

    July 17, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. The Film Professor

    Oh great, one more old racist white man trying to come to R*Money's rescue! Just have to love the code words about learning how to be a "real American". Shameful. If I even had a name like Sununu, I'm not sure I would be opening my trap like this.

    July 17, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  18. Blue

    This GOP Party is about as low as you can set. What a bunch of losers. They make me ashamed to be an Ameriscan.

    July 17, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  19. h

    How do you teach someone like Obama how to be American. He doesn't WANT to be American!

    July 17, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  20. ryan

    This smells of frusteration and desperation. Obama's got them on the ropes and it's only July.

    July 17, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  21. Planner922

    This has been an "underground" theme of the Republican Party for the last 4 years. Now it's out up front and no longer just on the Drudge report and FOX. Now the American people can see the GOP for what it truly is. The party of the wealthy elite who hates everyone "not like us."

    July 17, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. Tubby the Tuba Texas

    Say goodbye to the Republicans! Obstructionists that they are will be voted from office by people who want action from Congress!!

    July 17, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  23. LMC

    I don't suppose Sununu thinks the bankers and Wall Street people who brought down our economy are un-American though!

    July 17, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. ruth

    I do not believe obama is a true American either....I still remember when him and his wife were at a dedication for our flag,bagpipes , songs etc and Michelle obama said and I quote " All this for a flag" and obama nodded his head and just said yeh........now you tell me he is an American? I think not!

    July 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  25. Dyslexic Dog

    Grover Norquist and John Sununu are two perfect examples of the need for contraception.

    July 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
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