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. Natalie

    Since when did sheltering money offshore become "American"? If Obama had done this you'd better believe he would be accused of being unAmerican by the GOP. These people are absolutely insane and incredibly desperate. Nice try Rove.

    July 17, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. oh ooooo! Oooops!

    PPS: Michael Bloomberg: "Obama has done a lot more than he is given credit for....I wish he could do more." with Fareed Zakaria June 2012.

    I have a business and if weren't for my DEVOTED, HARDWORKING, CONSCIENTIOUS employees who show up at work on time, produce packages, shipping, helping customers, cleaning, recording sales and accounts receiveable ON A DAILY basis, my business would be NO WHERE. Yes: My business was built by the ENTIRE COMMUNITY of loyal patriotic Americans RICH OR POOR, BLACK OR WHITE. The roads that I DIDN'T build, the people that I DON'T KNOW make my business thrive on a daily basis. EVERYONE is working hard and should be recognized and EXPECTED TO PLAY BY THE SAME RULES. Stop exploiting those with little access to information and big money.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012.

    July 17, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  3. jk in MN

    @Mack – I couldn't have said it better. What a sad commentary on what our country is turning into.

    July 17, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. PaulMoATX

    This just gets better by the day!

    July 17, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. rla

    Obama policies from the extreme left that runs the democratic party failed by every conceivable measure and now they are at Chicago political level making small things big and smearing the other guy in the process Oh for HOPE AND CHANGE!!! TIME TO MOVE ON!

    July 17, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. anthony78

    His statement still doesn't make the question go away...


    We haven't forgotten.

    July 17, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Sununu is just another pitiful example of why old white men have to be replaced in order for America to move FORWARD, in other words, it takes young white and minority intelligent minds to move this country FORWARD.

    July 17, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. Dixie Normous

    Give us your poor, your tired and your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Maybe we should tear down the Statue of Liberty and replace her with a gigantic neon dollar sign and a plaque that reads, "I've got mine, screw you".
    I love your misrepresentation of the meaning of the quotation. The quote was basically intended to give people the opportunity to do anything they want, be anything they want, with hard work it was all possible. It was not intended for people just to come here and live off the government doll. Such misrepresentations is why the left has no credibility any more.

    July 17, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. quinLee

    This is about a bunch of nothing. All I see is a DESPERATE campaign with a deeply FLAWED candidate grasping at anything to keep afloat. ROI from the Buy-A- Romney Project isn’t looking to good for the High Roller donors right now. As my grandpa would say, “That dog won’t hunt”

    July 17, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. Richard

    Why is Mitt Romney cowering in a dark corner about his tax returns?

    Man up Mitt!

    July 17, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. demwit

    Romney needs to ignore the ominous financial storm clouns and learn to dance in the debt rain..

    July 17, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. anagram_kid

    I would really like to see one of the anti-Obama posters provide a specific example of how his horrendous, incompetent, epic, failure as president (sorry if I missed any adjectives) has affected them personally. Tell us the life destroying thing that he and he alone caused. No Fox talking points, just a clear example of how your life has been utterly ruined by this man.

    July 17, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Wake up people

    So President Obama should learn how to be American?? Really?? Like the treasonous members of Congress? I was wondering when the old anti American BS would raise it's head again. President Obama is very patriotic and he cares for this country and everyone in it.

    This guy needs to just put on his sheet and hood and ride off into the sunset. Don't worry Mittens will be joining you soon.

    OBAMA 2012!

    July 17, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  14. ghostriter

    Why did Romney try to solicit work for Staples while saving the Olympics? I mean, it's not like we was working for Bain, which had a financial stake in Staples. So why would we even offer to use his own staff to lobby for Staples to get the contract?

    July 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  15. zapper

    "criticized Obama for his so-called “cheek by jowl” relationship with donors"

    That's hilarious coming from Sununu. Johnny, you need to learn how to be a mature adult.

    July 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Logic N LA

    So now Obama doesn't know what it is to be an American? Let's put al the nonsense these spokespeople for Mitt say in one spot and see where there fine Christian values lie.

    July 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Angel

    Giving birth to a company that has the sole purpose of destroying other companies, then outsourcing the jobs along with all the assets to foreign lands is Un-American.

    July 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. ghostriter

    And what about the republicans telling Romney to release his tax records? Should they also learn to be an American? I think George Will would like to have a word with you.

    July 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  19. Myviewis

    Rudy NYC – taxes government collects comes from the money businesses create, if businesses don't pay taxes than the government wouldn't have tax money for the roads, fireman, police officers, etc... you are talking about. Businesses pay employees who in turn pay taxes and those taxes are collected by the government and those taxes also pay for roads, police officers, firemen, roads you are talking about. Government has money because of businesses producing money that pays employees. Get it???? I suggest you Google it.

    July 17, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. Jules

    Yes, be an American like Mitt and keep your money in offshore accounts and tax havens. Really grasping, aren't they?

    July 17, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. Jules

    Hey, I'm from Chicago and it isn't murky here today – it's sunny and hot a hades.

    July 17, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. Mark

    Yeah we all know that lowering taxes over and over again will create so many jobs we will be swimming in them. Of course it has the negative impact of fewer and fewer people paying them and the ones that do pay less and less. How did America survive and thrive before Reagan when the tax rate was 70% or higher?

    July 17, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. ghostriter

    Republicans complained about taking the "I like firing people" comment out of context. So what do they do? Take Obama's comment out of context. Sure, it makes for great storytelling, but is dishonest on both sides. Especially when you play the tape.

    July 17, 2012 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  24. chuck weidemann

    Learn how to be an American???? Pull your head out....Obama relates to Americans,is the leadership of Americans,Elected by Americans....and keeps his money in Banks in America

    July 17, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Curt

    Sununu, are you serious? Our economy is the envy of the world. Are we forgetting the unemployment rate, the number of foreclosures etc.. Maybe Obama should be more like a republican. Lets start wars so our friends like Haliburton can make a fortune, lets take " bribe " money from banks so we don't regulate them more and they can ruin the economy, lets have a do nothing congress and vote to repeal health care 33 times when we could have worked on jobs creation. I'am just hoping when the next election comes around that people vote for those that are going to work together and fix the problems and those that have decided to do nothing but waste time should be removed from office. Hate to tell you Sununa, but travel abit in the world. You"ll find out the U.S. is not the country everybody envies. Maybe in your mind.

    July 17, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
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