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. harvey 60

    Funny that Fat Sununu should be talking about felons. Governor, you should have gone to jail when you used government planes and limos to transport you from DC to New York City and back while you were George the First's Chief of Staff. You got off easy, like most rich people do, you simply resigned. You cheated the citizens of New Hampshire while you were governor, supposedly balancing budgets while you diverted millions in federal Medicaid money away from poor people into other departments. Wonder what your taxes look like?

    July 17, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  2. MaryM

    national campaign co-chair John Sununu(Rush) saying he wished “this president would learn how to be an American.”

    It is talk like that , that will help LOSE Romney the election. We have all heard Rushs garbage and the Majority of Americans know it is garbage. Just the OLD angry white men are doing it. (oh and of course the paid trolls)

    July 17, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  3. v_mag

    A patriotic American pays his taxes, doesn't send jobs overseas, and doesn't hide money in off-shore accounts. How come Rob-money is so reluctant to prove that he is a patriot of the country he wants to lead?

    Sununu is of course making reference to the long-dead birther issue. He thinks he's cute doing it in a sly way.

    Sununu. Isn't that an African name? Sounds African to me. Where's your birth certificate, John Abdul Sununu?

    July 17, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. zago

    Being a patriot is :
    –investing your resourses in your country;
    –paying your taxes and being proud to show it;
    –allowing your money to create jobs for your fellows;
    –answer to the call i.e. to serve your country in times of war especially if you are called upon.

    July 17, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Spotter

    We got exactly what a lot of us expected with Obama – failure. All of this is all just a distraction from his horrendous job performance and he wants to double down. Calling now to see where I can send the check for Sununu to do a nationwide truth tour.

    July 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. Steve from CT

    There is a fine line between "Patriot" and "Nationalist." A patriot will give their life for their country, A nationalist will give someone elses life, and refuse to pay for it.

    July 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  7. "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." --B. Obama

    Obama is as clueless.

    July 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. Patriot Awesome

    Do the Republicans really want to open up the capitalism cronyism can of worms? That is going to backfire on them big time.

    July 17, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. BigTBone

    November can not get here fast enough. You'd think the ACA decision from the SC would have shut them up and put them in their place, but it's almost as if it's emboldened them.

    It's like that really drunk obnoxious dude at the bar who's been begging to get clocked. You attempt to reason, cite facts and relevant situational notes, talk sense, try to defuse the tension, but they won't relent. They just get more belligerent. In november, the biggest baddest bouncer needs to show up and show the TP/GOP the door. Or toss them through the window. Just get them out of the place where everyone else was co-existing in relative harmony before they ruined the night...

    July 17, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. Keith A. Sillsbury

    " The colorful attack dog criticized Obama for his so-called “cheek by jowl” relationship with donors". So what your saying john is that PRESIDENT OBAMA has a good, close relationship with his donors. More than 75% of the donors of PRESIDENT OBAMA just happen to be the common everyday AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS that sends in donations of less than $350 dollars because thats ALL THEY CAN AFFORD unlike mitt romney who has 3000 donors sending 75000 to the republican election fund once a month. Learn how to be an AMERICAN? oh oh oh!!! I want to learn how to be an AMERICAN john. how does that go again? Lesson one – see if china can make your product cheaper than AMERICAN workers. Lesson two – FIRE your AMERICAN WORKERS. Lesson three – Liquidate the AMERICAN WORKERS PENSIONS, put that money in your private swiss account and take your family on VACATION. yeah, thats how the romneys do it.

    July 17, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. Malory Archer

    The rightwing needs to stop letting little johnny out of the attic! He sounds more and more deluded every time he opens his mouth. Is he suffering from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia?

    July 17, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. zago

    there might be something pretty uggly in the taxes if the gov. in lieu of being proud to show that he never cheated and has been a good citizen by paying his due and has not done anything wrong resort to race, you can imagine how devastating are these taxes to his presidential hopes.

    July 17, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. WIMPY38

    In reply to nrc: Of course you enjoy your employees due to the fact that you pay them under minimum wage because you only hire illegal immigrates who have to take what they can get. I bet you don't even have insurance on them which saves you a lot of money. Your blowin' smoke up the wrong bazoo.

    July 17, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  14. Has Mittens "RETROACTIVELY RETIRED" as the GOVERNOR of MA back to before he signed ROMNEYCARE???

    Blah, blah blah, blah blah blah.

    The GOP's "hitmen" are starting to sound more like white noise as opposed to saying anything substantial.

    July 17, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  15. Thomas

    National campaign co-chair John Sununu saying he wished “this president would learn how to be an American.”

    When dose a pig become arrogant ?

    July 17, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  16. Rick 7809

    So John Sununu says that the president steered loans to friends. This is the guy that got ran out of the GHW Bush White house for bilking the taxpayer on travel costs. So John, what about the secret energy meetings that "W" had with Dick Chenny's boys that caused the oil prices to rocket up and started a war. See any problem there?

    July 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  17. realitychecks

    Its unamerican that american businesses ship jobs overseas. It's unamerican that minimum wage is 7.55 an hour. It's unamerican to pay americans the lowest wage possible and then treat them like slaves. the middle class is disappearing and that is the goal of repubs....keep them down until they disappear.

    July 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. anagram_kid

    In your example you are correct that the automotive companies pushed for more highways, but you have to acknowledge that many other industries, including your own, benefits from infrastructure. Did you build the road that leads to your business? Do you develop, deploy and support all the technology you use? Do you generate your own electricity and have a separate home-grown sewage system at your place of business? Of course the answer is ‘no’, but why would you want facts when hatred makes you ‘feel better’?

    July 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  19. Rick from Texas via Florida

    Ahh the Un-American propoganda. Really. Looks and acts pretty American to me. He is a Statesman and believes in the US Goverment. If you want our goverment to work elect Statesman, who do like wise and then you'll have a system that works for all. Not just those with influence.

    July 17, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  20. Gurgyl

    This guy is a total nonsense.

    July 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe Out-sourcing Jobs-Outsourcing-his-Money and Outsourcing America

    Where are still waiting to learn how Etch-A-Sketch Mitt RobMe ‘learn how to be an American’....a tax cheat, a felon, a draft dodger, who believes in SWISS BANK ACCOUNTS, tax haven in BERMUDA & the CAYMEN ISLAND....the idiot mitt robme who ships JOBS to CHINA & INDIA?....

    Just what is AMERICAN about mitt robme with all his SWISS BANK ACCOUNTS?!!!!!

    July 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. Switters

    Sununu is a "pig" in every sense of the word....

    July 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. cali girl

    WOW. Robmey, when he was 'helping" the Salt Lake City Olympics, got on the Board for that to get his very own companies he owned through BAIN to get all the contracts.
    Staples, who Robmey touts as his job creator company, brought it back from near distinction, was bought for the reason to collect millions from an Olympic sponsorship. However, Robmey wasn't counting on Office Depot coming in with the best bid. Robmey also offered a deal with Office Depot, would pay them for them to back out, which they did not.
    Sounds very dirty to me.

    July 17, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. Malory Archer

    Steve from CT

    There is a fine line between "Patriot" and "Nationalist." A patriot will give their life for their country, A nationalist will give someone elses life, and refuse to pay for it.


    Sounds a lot like today's republican party.

    July 17, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    What are Sununu's idea of "being an American?" I don't understand that line. If Sununu only considers those that are like him ideologically, then there are plenty out there that aren't "being an American" in Sununu's eyes. Obama has the idea that government is to fill in where the private sectors and charitable organizations don't or won't go. It is the idea to help fellow Americans in a time of need. Does Romney belive in helping his fellow Americans?

    July 17, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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