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. rla

    My goodness how these loser liberals can spin a story??? Must be all they can do as they have a real failure as a leader. . Make small things big is their motto and smear the other guy in the process (so much for hope and change) you hear that as much as you hear about Obama care! TIME TO MOVE ON

    July 17, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  2. Amazing

    I forget that only Republicans are ture Americans! I normally don't agree with anything Murdoch says but he was right about the lack of professionalism in Romney's campaign. Obama in 2012!

    July 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. Evan

    So Hawaii is not the USA? and the Prez was smoking ¨something¨ as a toddler and this Sununu dude is gonna teach us what real American is suppose to be? Is it one with accounts in Switzerland? the Cayman islands?

    July 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. Obama Sucks

    It's really quite disgusting how little the rank and file Democrats care about this country anymore. We know that Obama is corrupt and greedy and couldn't care less about the American people. That's who and what he has always been. But that so many on the left have lowered themselves to defend his actions.. is sickening.

    July 17, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |

    Obama is a European socialist, not really American in the true sense of the word. The fact that he was born here makes no difference. His politics are the same as those of socialists in Europe that have many countries on the verge of bankruptcy. Why can't Obama and all of his supporters just come clean with the American people? Why does he feel he has to hide who he truly is? Is because he wouldn't get elected?

    July 17, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  6. California Gary

    Really? We're back to the "Obama isn't a real American" thing? Why continue to appeal to the redneck racist voters......they are already solidly in your corner. This kind of talk just makes you look like an idiot Sununu.

    July 17, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. Malory Archer

    "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." –B. Obama

    Obama is as clueless.


    President Obama is spot on, and anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together understands that a business is only as good as its clientel. That you open it does not mean that they will come, and if they don't you aren't going to "build your business".

    July 17, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Dave

    Here is some interesting facts about our so-called pro-American President: He invested billions of dollars into GE to support his political pal who is the CEO. GE has spent this money on jobs overseas, and has not paid taxes in the USA. And yet, Obama thinks other companies can learn from GE! HA HA – you can't make this stuff up!!!

    July 17, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. Thomas

    “It is the American way, and I wish this president would wish how to learn how to be an American.”

    This is almost indecipherable. Anyways, it's just like fox taking things out of context. No business starts from one man doing everything by himself without relying on support in one way or another.

    July 17, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. Vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    you have names like Sununu and/or Priebus you can't really say much about Obama NOT being American. Of course I guess if you're WHITE and have such funny sounding names then it is more acceptable by the far right .

    July 17, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Who tries to deflect attention away from Romney later this week? Trump?

    If Mitt Romney wants to be POTUS, then he'd better learn to fight his own fights and solve his own problems. These Bain issues and tax return issues have been plaguing him for months and months, and he continues to cut and run from them hoping they will go away.

    July 17, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. judy

    talk like this coming from a repo is just fine. only when the president says it is it awful and requires an apology. Keep up the heat Mr> president apparently the repos can't take it. Only when they are the one slinging mud is it ok. Tell milk toast we want to see his tax returnes. I guess being an American to the repos means off shore banking and tax dodgeing. Oh and out sorceing too, Obama 2012.

    July 17, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. Mack

    Yes real Americans have elevators for their cars, houses for their boats, hide their money in offshore accounts, and help to build a strong economy...in China and India!

    July 17, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. Myviewis

    I listened to Obama's speech yesterday and obviously he believes small businesses exist because of government who also brought us the Internet that created businesses. He obviously doesn't understand that people created the government, not the other way around and businesses were around before there a government was created by the people. As for roads, infrastructure, well if it weren't for taxes paid by businesses and the people that work in those businesses the government wouldn't have money for infrastructure. I think it would be good for Obama to take at Harvard University ECON E-10a Principles of Economics ( just to get him started). It would be good if he also took Microeconomics, Intro to Statistics, Principles of Finance, Economics of Business, Macroeconomics, Finance Principles because as we all know Obama does not have these academics. As for this being foreign, I think Obama made a point in 2008 that he was raised in Indonesia by an Indonesian step-father and that he lived only in Hawaii and was not in the mainland so he was not used to the mainland american way of doing things. He is the one that made us think he was used to foreign way of life and not American way of life.

    July 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. tee27

    What a cheap shot by John Sununu he has no class

    July 17, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. Romney Outsource America Jobs

    Romney tell your friend to lose some weight..Sununu tell Romney show them taxes for 12 years.

    July 17, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Kenny K


    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.
    We already heard that from your boss, Mitch McConnell.

    July 17, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  18. oh ooooo! Oooops!

    I JUST LOVE this racist ladden comment by a former Governor of USA. If he isn't American then where is he from?

    This just proves that most of the attacks/opposition that Obama has received since he became president STEMS from the PREJUDICIAL MINDS of congress men and senators in the United States house of representative. How else can anyone justify opposition to PREVIOUSLY GOP-DEMS supported ideas?
    Americans need their heads examined if they don't see that the GOP lead obstruction failed the USA and NOT Obama.

    July 17, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  19. Norma Vessels

    To Steve from CT ... I heard the speech from President Obama. The Fox news took those words out of context. Our president was quoting someone else .. and said after that, that it WAS NOT the way he saw it. Our President Obama is
    for the small businesses .. knows how hard they work to make their business thrive. You have to be very dense to believe that our presidents not wholeheartedly for the working class.

    July 17, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." –B. Obama

    Obama is as clueless.
    Yeah, that was the Fox News Channel misquote taken out of context of the day, yesterday. What the president was saying is that your business is successful because everything that makes it a success not your doing. You didn't build the roads that bring customers to your door. You didn't build the utilities that bring the power, water and sewage services to your door. Your taxes pay for that and more. Your taxes pay for the police officers and firemen that protect your business. Your taxes pay for the military that keeps this country free, and more.

    The quote was taken totally of out context.

    July 17, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. Larry L

    @Obama Sucks

    It's really quite disgusting how little the rank and file Democrats care about this country anymore. We know that Obama is corrupt and greedy and couldn't care less about the American people.
    No... we do not "know" those things. Only those of you who get all of your information from Fox News are gullible enough to believe (and pass on) those lies. President obama cares about all of the American people – not just the top 1% represented by the Repbulican Party's platform. President Obama is an African American – get over it.

    July 17, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. Joi Gibson

    Here we go again. "Learn how to be an American." Sunnu needs to take a lesson in class – he has absolutely none. I am so sick of this un-American crap towards President Obama. It is offensive – as is Mr. Sunnu.


    July 17, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. The Government know's what is best for you

    Who care's about what mitt paid in taxes ten tears ago. I want to know about what obama's doing about job's and our hugh debt now. Obama is a hypocrite, he gave GM and GE billions of our tax dollars and they out source jobs and paid no taxes, shouldnt that concern people at all?

    July 17, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Nick126

    Obama should take some lessons from the Bush administration on how to do business in America. First call should be to Dick Cheney since he's an expert.

    July 17, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. Norma Vessels

    My message to Steve from CT goes to you, too, Myviewis.

    July 17, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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