July 17th, 2012
06:44 PM ET
10 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. Mark

    Hey Dave O, no one cares. Got it?!

    July 17, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. So_Simple_Simon

    Mexico is the 51st state. Didn't you get thw memo?

    That makes everyone legal. Even Romney.

    Now, let us get down to serious business.

    America needs real Hope and Change. Not BHO.

    July 17, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  3. American

    Where's the apology, Romney? Reprehensible behavior.

    July 17, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. John

    Likewise, I wish he'd be American and pay his fair share of taxes.

    July 17, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Jim

    FLOFFLOFFLOF Learn how to be an American FLOFFLOFFLOF! Put Sununu out to pasture.

    July 17, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  6. Steven Colo

    By "learning how to be an American", does Sununu mean taking numerous trips and trying to charge them to the taxpayers, or calling Zionism racism? This guy is an embarrassment to the GOP.

    July 17, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  7. jesse james. take them to street and shoot them like the dogs they are

    Balant raceism. There will be more obams as potus. They will be americans black brown asians mixed .live with it. But we still want to see your tax returns. And since you brought it up your wifes returns also.

    July 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    For Sununu to say "the IRS would be all over" Romney if he had not reported all his income is rediculous. Where was the IRS with people like Bernie Madoff and all others like him. Its apparant they do not locate 100% of unreported or 'offsh

    July 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  9. Vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    personally I think Obama can teach a lot of you on the right about how to be an American.

    July 17, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  10. JohnReedjr

    Just remember that Sunnunu was driven out of the GHW Bush White House for misusing taxpayer funds using Government Transportation for personal use. He has destroyed the Republican party in NH, turning it far to the right. I would trust him with a roll of toilet paper.

    July 17, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  11. California

    It's a shame demcorats don't (and probably never will) know what "fair share" even means. Half the country doesn't even pay a "SHARE".

    July 17, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. Mel D

    If I were Sununu, I would shut my big and I mean big pie-hole. He has had his share of controversies. He took advantage of the American peoples's tax dollars. I guess he thinks that people have forgotten his indiscretions. He should go crawl back under the rock he's been hiding.

    July 17, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. anoel2005

    Being an American has always meant working hard in order to achieve success.

    Obama's version of America: Keep taxing the successful people in order to fund "green" projects and to create bigger govt. welfare programs.

    July 17, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. GFYJS

    Speaking on Un-American practices, Sununu knows ALL about it...
    "As White House Chief of Staff, Sununu reportedly took personal trips, for skiing and other purposes, and classified them as official, for purposes such as conservation or promoting the Thousand Points of Light.[14] The Washington Post wrote that Sununu's jets "took him to fat-cat Republican fund-raisers, ski lodges, golf resorts and even his dentist in Boston."[14] Sununu had paid the government only $892 for his more than $615,000 worth of military jet travel.[15] Sununu"

    July 17, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  15. jesse james. take them to street and shoot them like the dogs they are

    Foregin. Rumknee your money is in foregin banks now who is unamerican.

    July 17, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  16. Celia

    Sununu says, The IRS would have been "all over" Romney if he had unreported income. Where was the IRS when crooks like Bernie Madoff were making millions? Was all that reported?

    July 17, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  17. No Clue

    I think Obama is MORE American than EVERYBODY who calls him unAmerican. He worked his way through school, graduated, served his community, represented his district and become president...what's more American than that? Not Willard "Mitt" Romney or George W. Bush...

    July 17, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  18. cinci

    narrow minded and GOP are synonymous, too.

    July 17, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  19. Jim Klimaski

    Sunnu is a "birther". Who would have thunk it? This election campaign has become the theater of the absurd. I'm beginning to think Romney might not end up with the Republican nomination. His campaign is a train wreck and everyone can see it.

    July 17, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "FACT: Sununu's IQ is 180"

    So? For once thing, the Mega Society's tests aren't verified, aren't supervised and aren't necessarily accepted in the psychology community. For another, high IQ doesn't prevent mental disorders, general confusion or having a copletely broken belief system like Sununu does. The guy is a completely ridiculous ideologue windbag who just spewed some really insulting and vile crap about the POTUS....and it changes nothing that he can figure out the next number in a series pretty well.

    July 17, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  21. Sirned

    The Republicans just voted to keep Americans in the dark about secret money from even foreign investors giving money to buy politicians.
    The Republicans defend fat cats outsourcing our jobs.
    So who is unAmerican again?

    July 17, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  22. gramma nance

    oh yeah...everything Sununu says is the TRUTH.....NOT!!!! 'Chipmunk Cheeks' needs to pass on those buffet lines too. I haven't seen him in YEARS!!!

    July 17, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  23. Republican Not Voting For Romney

    What putzy thing to say. Independent voters are already turning away, just keep talking Romney supporters and you will guaranty a landslide for our Prez. Also, M.R. should submit at least 7 years of tax returns. He submitted 23 years worth 4 years ago. That issue will not go away over 56% of Americans and 67% of Independent voters want them submitted.

    July 17, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  24. Thomas

    Translation: "How this black boy ever got elected is beyond me".

    July 17, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  25. svatoid

    has anyone actually ever seen John Sununu birth certificate? With a name like Sununu, he sounds like a potential Al Qeida operative.

    July 17, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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