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. Walt M

    Here we go we get the Faux "News" watchers on here complaining about what they saw on the Faux where they edited President Obama's comments completely just so people would go off the deep end. Notice how they took out the context to back their view of President Obama hating business.

    Faux News Version of what President Obama said:
    "If you've got a business, you didn't build that, somebody else made that happen.... The point is that, when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

    What President Obama actually said:
    "Look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something - there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

    If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

    The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

    So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That's how we funded the GI Bill. That's how we created the middle class. That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That's how we invented the Internet. That's how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for President - because I still believe in that idea. You're not on your own, we're in this together."

    July 17, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. jag

    Trickle down economics actually translates as "as soon as we get full of it we'll pee on you low lifes". The stench of all that BS is still reeking havoc.

    July 17, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  3. tellin it like it is

    obama is a communist american. yes, he was born here but he is as american as dog meat stew.

    July 17, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. Mia

    What Romney did with his money is really not my concern. Gov. Romney's avoiding a discussion on tax returns and his past work experience is HIS business. The President is king of avoiding any and all discussion on a bad economy, unemployment and job creation, which is ALL American's business. That's the difference. The president owes us an explanation.

    July 17, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. Sue

    PULEEEZE! John Sununu is senile, lacks any semblance of a brain, and not even worth the time we're taking to comment on this story. He's a joke!

    July 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  6. Ricardo

    Romney, Release ur damn tax return. U can run but u can't hide, believe me.

    July 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. Norm

    Let's all join to together now and LOUDLY try to distract the public away from this issue.
    Me thinks the Repugs do protest TOO MUCH.
    There must really be something to this.
    What would happen if their candidate went to prison right before the election?
    That would be yet another historical moment in the Obama presidency.
    The first candidate to win by default.
    Keep watching this issue.
    It's not going to go away.
    Neither will everyone's memory of the Bush years.
    What they should be angrily demanding is "who vetted this guy".....

    July 17, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. w l jones

    A person say the president learn how to be an American well for starter Africa you see the same people over here never left Africa only the mind set. Everything one do are say is Africa regardless where they might live today. Even the place where they may have been born.

    July 17, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Dyslexic Dog

    FOX News fodder for the deluded masses. John Sununu is a professional blowhard.

    July 17, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. Mike from Calgary

    His remarks are as silly and small-minded as those from Romney's mouth. The more the Republicans talk, the better for the Democrats. These asses are becoming an embarassment to the entire Pro-life cause.

    July 17, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. JP

    I wish that the GOP learn to how to act like mature adults.

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

    aww...sununu such a cute name sounds like you call a baby that has recently pooped in his diapers

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

    "he comes from that that that murky world of Chicago."
    Come on boys.
    if Obama survived all of this in 2008....don't you think it's pretty lame to try the same B S again?
    LOL....I smell fear and desperation.

    July 17, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  14. Sonya from NC

    saying the POTUS should learn how to be American is an unAmerican as you can get....Repubs are desperate!!!

    July 17, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. vote the Tea Party Out in 2012

    if Obama had blond hair, blue eyes, a common name like Smith or Jones and STILL had the same current record this election would not be even close. The GOP as usual has to play on the fears of people and they are very effective at doing it.

    July 17, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    And the winner here? Every other country that is not America! Hey rightwing loser, HATE divides and destroys!

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

    What language did SUNUNU make this comment in?

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

    the GOP know they are losing the WAR so they throw out what ever bull syht they can think of (with their one brain cell) and hope stupid folks like ria, my views, dave and the rest of ther mitt lickers can sleep on and worship

    see how ignorant their statements are...you do this sort of thing when your team is losing and have no other recourse
    pitiful isnt it...............to bad all of you will just puke, pee on yourselves and pass out when Obama wins again AND HE WILL WIN I promise you see ya here on NOV 7...........

    Obama 2012

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

    Why isn't the Chief Justice seat on the U.S. Supreme Court a seat of Color ?
    Nobody will believe that crap .

    July 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. Kevin

    If Obama should act like an American, a good start would be to produce a birth certificate, or college transcripts.

    July 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. NameRuben

    Republicans need to man up and stop crying!

    July 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. JP

    so this statement can also apply to GW and cheney as well. hell they started wars to line the pockets of their coffers

    July 17, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  23. ghostriter

    Here’s what the seven Republican freshmen’s congressional offices have spent on cars in the past year and a half:

    Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN): $25,580.84
    Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI): $24,525.00
    Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX): $10,997.45
    Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO): $20,978.07
    Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH): $4,889.76
    Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS): $8,848.00
    Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR): $10,746.59
    TOTAL: $106,643

    July 17, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. wade

    Fed Boss Reports Economy Getting Worse, 'Confidence Low'
    Business are angry with Obama for his comments that they owe their success to the GOV.

    July 17, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Z

    @Tim, you are an idiot! How many of the top 100 wealthiest Americans are democrats? But it is only GOPers who are greedy right?

    July 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
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