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. Listen

    " 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." -President Obama, during a speech in Roanoke last week. He tries to make the point that we all had help to be successful, which I would agree with. But he certainly overstepped, and by his words we can see what he really is. Feel free to look the speech up and read it for your self. Does Obama need to learn what it means to be an American? Ya, he does.

    July 17, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. Tommy Boy

    What does it mean when my doodie has a strange greenish hue?

    July 17, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. kmuiowa

    i would rather have obama stay in office then romney lets face it mitts joined up with those tea party idiots the real unameicans the ones who want to own everything and make the rest of us their servents the jerks

    July 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. brian in denver

    Mr. Sununu is just another overweight, bigoted, small-minded Rethug who sounds like a toothless, inbred, goat-roping hillbilly in this statement.

    July 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. LouieD

    By the looks of the photo used, John Sununu should learn how not to be a person-sized hemorrhoid. Seriously, can't the Republicans run just ONE presidential campaign without recycling scandal-tinged old has-beens as spokespeople?

    July 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. humberto

    There is only 1.2 trillion dollars in currency in circulation -No one is accusing you of having any intelligence.

    July 17, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  7. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    I remember when John Sununu came to Washington as GHWB's Chief of Staff and thought he was going to run Congress the same way he did the NH Legislature (come in, tell them exactly what bills they are supposed to vote on, don't let them leave until he gets what he asked for and veto what he didn't ask for). He still hasn't figured out that the country has a lot beyond Concord. In fact, he should try going down to Portsmouth once in a while.

    July 17, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  8. Now Now, Children

    at least John Sununu "looks" like a real American Conservative: obese, cranky, in a bubble, a miser, out of touch, a demagogue, and mean spiritied. Sorry, no offense to reasonable conservatives, I am talking about the right wingers, their money boys, their radio talk show braggarts, their delusional version of what a 'patriot" should be like...
    ( a few pointers: patriots don't outsource to other countries, patriots know there are more people in a nation than just the rich boys and their cronies, patriots help make their country better rather than pout and shut everything down when they don't get their way.)

    July 17, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. Sandy

    If John Sununu, better known as Lulu, is a real American, then who the hell wants to be a real American? Sununu, like so many of the Romney-ites, is in touch with only that 1% of Americans who have most of the wealth. He knows as much about what it's like to be a "real American" as Jabba the Hut. These guys are using real Americans as a foil to keep lining their pockets. There is a good reason why the Republican party and its leadership are full of rich, fat cats.

    July 17, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. Bob

    Sununu's comments will play well to white trash. That's how they're targeted.

    July 17, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  11. B

    aka. a black man is president and I don't like it.
    aka. angry black man

    July 17, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  12. CarrotCakeMan

    Sununu is the creep that got CAUGHT misusing military helicopters to fly to golf outings during Old Bush.

    July 17, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. Waltyss

    Sununu has always been nuts but now he is repulsively nuts.
    Romney's campaign is in trouble. Better try to get the birthers and teabaggers back on board.
    Have we really sunk this low?

    July 17, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. Nathan K

    Yeah well.. he should learn how to lose weight.

    July 17, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  15. brandford

    Mr. Sununu should be ashamed of himself. He looks racists and out of touch with reality like his boss who does not want to show his tax returns.- I mean Romney. They are fighting a loosing battle and Obama would win handsomely in November. Romney talks with his mouth always shaking especially when he tells lies about the president of USA.

    July 17, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it! Now our younger generations can see first hand for themselves why slavery and JIM Crow lasted in America as long as they did! It was because these same kinds of people running the teapublican party today are the very same kinds of white supremacist racist confederate communists running the country back then! You elect a progressive and intelligent black President and all of a sudden, the bigotry, racism and hate of the confederates resurface once more. What a modern day travesty.

    July 17, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  17. grahame rhodes

    Sununu........ Another Water Gate criminal hanging on by the skin of his racist teeth. YEP! he's been around that long. Richard Nixon would be so proud. YECH!

    July 17, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  18. sanchanim

    I actually get why he is calling Obama UnAmerican, and I happen to agree. His policies and ideals are very socialistic in nature. I lived in a socialist country for the better part of a decade so I should know.
    The problem is he is trying to change a free market capitalistic society to a socialistic one. This is in it's very nature UnAmerican which isn't saying he a bad person but it is trying to change a lot of what this country was founded on.
    I plan to not vote for him for a number of reasons this time around.

    July 17, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  19. dcjim1

    This may upset the birthers...lol

    July 17, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  20. tv22

    The President's comments further underscore his basic lack of understanding of business. When business owners are worried about making payroll, the government isn't there to help.

    July 17, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. Larry L


    Sununu's comments will play well to white trash. That's how they're targeted.

    July 17, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. humberto

    Thats a felony .

    July 17, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. EP451

    From Wikipedia
    Sununu was born in Havana, Cuba, the son of Victoria (née Dada) and John Saleh Sununu, an international film distributor.[1] He is of Palestinian and Greek descent [2]. His father grew up in Jerusalem and his mother was born in San Salvador, El Salvador.[2][3] He is a Maronite Catholic.

    July 17, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  24. Big Al

    This is the same Republican party that accuses Obama of making "personal attacks."

    July 17, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  25. Phil in KC

    So now the Republicans have the corner on being Americans? I know they think they have the corner on being patriots (they don't), but now they get to determine who is a real American and who is not? I wonder if he would have agreed with Hitler that the Aryan race were the only 'true' Germans?

    July 17, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
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