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. craig

    If Rmoney is the model for "American" then we've got serious problems. More than we know. Hiding money overseas may be common in the 1% but I'd hardly call it "American."

    July 17, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. Larry L

    @Obama is as American as Dog Meat Stew
    Hate, ignorance and racism... the foundation of the plan of the fat-cats rely upon as they work to fire up the white trash.

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

    If Sununu is a "real American," then who wants to be a "real American?"

    July 17, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. realitybites

    This smells of frusteration and desperation. Obama's got them on the ropes and it's only July.
    You got it Ryan. It's called play defensive all summer and you look weak and unelectable. They don't like having their own tactics being played against them more effectively. And today Romney said that if he divulged more tax history the Democrats would use it against him. You think?

    Get your canulas out folks! Gonna be breathng a lot of O12 come January. The only public Republican rally I enjoyed seeing was the one showing McCain and Sarah Sellout having to eat Crow. I'm already eagerly awaiting what Obama has planed for Romney's menu.

    Note : last night in the line at Wallmart I saw Sarah Pailin and Bill O'Reilly's "best sellers" crowding the cardboard clearance bin near the register. I think I saw Sununu in there too.

    July 17, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. humberto

    Moronite what ?

    July 17, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  6. R. Williams

    Oh America and your image-obsession. I have nothing but a HUGE L-O-L at simply being an American, not being enough to qualify you as American.

    July 17, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  7. ART

    Talking about being American what about the Republican congress who have done absolutely nothing to help create jobs but try to block the President at every turn they are the ones who are traitors, BIG Fat HYPOCRITAL TRAITORS.

    July 17, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. Jack-65

    Mr. Sununu

    That, again, is a ridiculous statement. Question: Why do these guys get atttention?

    July 17, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  9. Tom

    The republican party has imploded – all that remains in control are insane fringe groups screaming every vile slur at those they do not agree with. What happened to responsible conservatives??? They need to wrench their party back from the lunatics...

    July 17, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  10. Larry L

    @Walt M
    Thanks Walt. Not everybody would take the time to spell it so clearly. Still, those who are driven by hate and hindered by ignorance will be unable to understand.

    July 17, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  11. once upon a horse

    maybe it's time we stop calling President Obama a Black man with a White mother and call him a White man with a Black father. Now how does THAT work for ya, Jonny?

    July 17, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  12. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Perhaps the Native Americans have something to say about who is and isn't American!

    July 17, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  13. Larry L


    " If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
    Read Walt's comment and then feel like a bigoted fool.

    July 17, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. HenryB

    Oh boy, the "you are not an American" card. How blatant we are in our revenge for something the President said. Please give it a rest. We have been hearing this for the past 4 years. This has been litigated over and over. Not much left to complain about eh you Republican ideologues?

    July 17, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. The Shepard

    It should be quite obvious to everyone at this point that this President is in way over his head and doesn't have a clue. He was voted in because there really wasn't much of a choice other than McCain and Palin. This country is in serious trouble and if someone REAL and RELIABLE who's not afraid to tell the truth and hurt some feelings along the way would come along, then maybe we could put this country back together again.

    July 17, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. Sandy

    Republicans are sore losers! They can't stand that Obama is beating them at their own game. They have to bring out the racist rhetoric.

    July 17, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  17. Bob

    This from the guy who was knee-deep in cronyism and bribe-taking (how many ski vacations did you accept, John?) under the first President Bush- you know, the one that raised taxes after saying he would never and left Saddam in power like the little wimp that he was. Sununu's vision for what is an American is some fat-cat jetting off to Switzerland on an energy company's private jet after signing a bill that allows for poisoning drinking water by fracking.

    July 17, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. PaulMoATX

    Mittens camp is coming unglued. These next few months are going to be fun to watch.

    July 17, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. Len Smith

    It is so very shocking to hear such crap from a former Governor. Who is this man who today can call the President of the United States of America to be American. Governor, I think you are out of line.

    July 17, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  20. Thomas

    now i see why reagan defunded mental illness.

    g , this is one of the guys with reagan , who said it was cheeper to cut funding for mental health , close hospitals and send patients home with there meds .

    This guy is heartless !

    July 17, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. G D

    Truly ridiculous. More has remained the same under Obama than has changed, and that is ultimately the problem; we're not better off today than when GW & lack of regulatory oversight crashed the country. The US is no more socialist than when he took office, and many countries with much better living, life, medicine, education standards are what the U.S. GOP demagogues would call socialist. If there is ANY government spending to the benefit of the citizens paid for by our mutual taxes, that thing is "socialist". The military is a socialist tool, roads are a socialist path, etc.

    July 17, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  22. Crimson Mazuka

    *sigh* here we go again with these stupid racist comments. It worked really well for Mccain and I'm sure it'll work equally well for Romney...

    July 17, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  23. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I enjoy republican ignorance as much as the next person, but Fox foreign owned media with 10% ownership is a front for domestic terrorism. By the way, don't you think Gretchen Carlson has really porked up?

    July 17, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  24. Thaw

    If Romney is an "American Role Model" Then I will become Swedish !!!!!

    July 17, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  25. Charles

    How insulting and racist for this man to suggest the President of the United States needs to "learn how to be an American." I will never forget that he said it and I will remember in November he is Republican and represents Mitt Romney. I will never forget.

    July 17, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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