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. Alan J

    anagram The Do Nothing Congress pulld the plug on your job! Put the blame where it belongs. Not the President! Sununu isn't even American born so he should Never say the word american to an american! He's a snake

    July 17, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  2. ray

    these racists says whats in there heart , only when they get caught they backtrack on what they say. the right number one goal is to get the blackman out the whitehouse.sununu is a racists at heart

    July 17, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    I never use the term racist easily, but this might be the most blatantly racist comment I have heard recently. Mr. Sunun, who not born in the USA, is pandering to the likes to Trump and the tea party and that is a shame. How dare he say such a thing about our President? How low can they get? I did not vote for Mr. Obama the last election, but I will this November. The Republican attacks have become so vicious, desperate and disgusting that they are sounding very un American.

    July 17, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  4. Ricky L


    And Romney is worried about Dems distorting his record?

    July 17, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  5. Rajinder Goyal

    Every republican who criticizes Obama should be asked to produce a birth certificate first. No comments of any kind should be accepted until proof of citizenship is shown. Where were all these 'nice and patriotic repubs' when the tea baggers were calling the President names like Hitler, witch doctor, a satan, a communist, a socialist, a muslim, an Arab' and so on. The GOP (more like NOP, the no party) is atrociously out of touch with modern America. They should go back to the drawing board and learn how to keep pace with the changing America. They are still mired in 17th century values. Grow up Sununu! Your name doesn't even sopund like American!

    July 17, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  6. Dixie Normous

    @anonymous, thank you for helping to make my point.

    July 17, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  7. Richard

    Nice way to fire up the Brown Shirts, Sununu. You've never lost your class! (Of course, you never had any to lose.)

    July 17, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. ghostriter

    dixie...i know you are not saying you were a govt contractor. Blaming your job loss on Obama? You might wanna look at your fellow republicans. you were essentially a govt employee. Republicans don't like that. Nor you.

    But yeah, they also said that if you don't have a job, it's your own fault.

    July 17, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  9. gayAgendaWatch

    Amen! We don't want a Kenyan b-stard child telling us Americans what to do!!! Get him out of office immediately!!!

    July 17, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  10. NVa Native

    All there is to be said about Sununu and his ilk ~ "What a pig!"

    July 17, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. mike

    If the GOP was truly American and looking out for jobs etc they wouldnt be stalling on every possible program Obama puts before them.talk about being unAmerican.Do you really think American voters are that stupid Sununu

    July 17, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. Mary

    Hey guy, why don't ask Mitt to produce the tax returns instead of calling others names. Shows desperation.

    July 17, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  13. Charlotte

    Another pathetic cheap GOP attempt to snooker their uneducated electorate into thinking Obama is a foreigner. These people are really trashy, you know?

    July 17, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. ghostriter

    anagram, that is kinda the point. Out of context, he just sounds like a jerk. In context, it makes more sense.

    If insurance isn't a buyer's market product, should it be a marketed product at is?

    July 17, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. 6km North of GZero

    Right. He's not an American because he's black and moslem and socialist and kenyan. Have fun in Area 51, boys.

    July 17, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  16. RX

    Wow, this guy who actually is NOT American is criticizing the sitting president (who killed Osama Bin Laden by the way) for not being American. I wonder if Mittens will demand an apology form him for the below the belt tactics as he does every time someone criticizes him for his Bain tenure.

    July 17, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  17. Alina1

    GOP SUCKS!!! And they know it.

    July 17, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  18. Louis in Wisc.

    Any real American who votes for ANY Republican should have to have a mental evaluation...

    July 17, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  19. Primewonk

    Bravo333 wrote, "...release 2 years of tax returns like Kerry did?"

    Seriously? Are you sure you want to roll with this statement? Are you positive you don't want to retract it?

    Because, for each of Kerry's 3 Senate campaigns, he released the previous 6 years of tax returns, and then when he ran for President, 2 years into that Senate term, he released the records for those 2 years. So, in reality, he released 20 YEARS of records. Not 2 years. Romney lied. And now, you are lying by repeating Romney's lie.

    July 17, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  20. Hani Omar

    What is a real American, Sununu, is a Bat in Arabic, which comes from a Labanese (Arabic) and is pronounced SANAWNAW. You figure out the rest

    July 17, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. Louis in Wisc.

    Look at these guys(Republicans all OLD WHITE RICH men how can they get so many working people to buy into that crap...

    July 17, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  22. jw

    what t h is he talking about??? our current office made us safer, been cleaning up terrorist poo.. tryen to help the hard workers in america, etc.. did he do any of that? noooooooo......

    July 17, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  23. Orchid333

    "GOP Attack Dog" – enough said. This guy's opinion is worth about as much as the gum stuck at the bottom of my kid's shoe.

    July 17, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  24. JD

    This guy was born in Cuba, what those he know about being American

    July 17, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "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."

    Thank you for admitting why we need to stop cutting taxes on the sillyk theory that it will somehow raise gov't revenue and why we need to get rid of the Bush tax cuts and have the wealthy pay a fair share.

    "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."

    I'm sorry, but you just basically called all Hawaiians "unamerican" now too. Good job.

    July 17, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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