Romney explains 'culture' remark, blames media for bad press
July 31st, 2012
11:17 AM ET
11 years ago

Romney explains 'culture' remark, blames media for bad press

(CNN) – Mitt Romney said Tuesday he wasn't denigrating the culture of Palestinians when he suggested at a fund-raiser that Israel's culture played a role in its economic success.

Romney's comments, made Monday, drew sharp criticism from Palestinian leaders, who blasted them as "racist statements."

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"I'm not speaking about, did not speak about, the Palestinian culture, or the decisions made in their economy," Romney clarified in an interview with Fox News. "That's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that. I certainly don't plan to address that during my campaign. Instead, I will point out, the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society."

On Monday, Romney made a comparison between the per capita GDPs of Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas at a high-dollar fund-raiser in central Jerusalem.

"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," Romney said.

(Figures on the United Nations' website actually indicate a much greater disparity between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel had a per capita GDP of $27,060 in 2009, while the 2009 per capita GDP of the occupied Palestinian territory was listed as $1,367.)

Citing the book "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations," Romney detailed his interpretation of author David Landes' thesis.

"He says if you can learn anything from the economic history of the world, it's this: culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things."

While Romney has cited Landes' book in speeches before, and included a passage about it in his own book "No Apology," his remark Monday drew a sharp reaction from Sa'eb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator and a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"This man, before he came here, he should have got some education about Israelis, Palestinians, and the region," Erekat said. "The Romney statements on Jerusalem and the racist statements about the Israeli culture being superior to the Palestinian culture reflect someone who needs to be educated, who needs knowledge. His statements are serving those extremist in the region now, and will serve extremists unfortunately."

Romney said in his interview Tuesday that the media reporting on his remarks were "more interested in finding something to write about" than they were in focusing on important issues like the economy.

"They'll instead try and find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough years for our country," Romney said.

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Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (366 Responses)
  1. CosmicC

    I think he said what he meant the first time. His remarks were offensive to both Israelis and Palestinians. If he doesn't realize that saying Jewish culture is good with money is a problem, he's out of touch. If he doesn't realize that comparing any two groups and saying that one is better than the other for cultural reasons is inherently offensive, I can't see how he wouldn't start a war with Russia and/or China within 6 weeks of entering office. Since the war is more likely to be a trade war than a shooting war, we're likely to lose.

    July 31, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. 0rangeW3dge

    You're BOTH going to "defend" your candidate, come hell or high water, but the truth is BOTH of them stumble, and sometimes fall.
    The opinion of the Palestinian official about Romney, and the Israeli official about Obama, should give you a clearer picture of their impressions of these candidates, because they don't care who we vote for.
    Mitt's Adventure was, very obviously, marred by a lack of preparation, and you can't defend that. On the other hand, he may have achieved what he set out to do, that is, make money. There were lots of folks paying for his fund-raisers. So, Mission Accomplished

    July 31, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  3. Jeckers

    Wren NYC

    Go ahead and post your comment on a Palestinian site.

    "Palestinians and middle eastern ancestry jews are both Semitic. Same race"

    Why would you say something so horrid and racist?

    July 31, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  4. Tom

    Funny how it's the media that said his remarks are racist. No, actually MittWitt it was the Palestinians that you insulted that said it...

    July 31, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  5. Jake

    Of course it was the media, all those guys like Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, even Walter Winchall are all out to get me. Just because I said Palestinians are bad people and Israelis are good people don't make me a racist. Everyone knows no Palestinians are a good thing. Nothing racist about that.

    July 31, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  6. iceload9

    It's just getting more and more tricky kissing up for votes.

    July 31, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  7. Jamesr1976

    Everything Romney says or does from now until the election will be linked in some way to racism. That's just the way things are in these times of division in our country. Truth or lie makes no difference. I don't think that we even know the difference anymore.

    July 31, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  8. DB in AR

    Blaming the media for bad press? Didn't this guy take a press corp with him (even though he ignored them the entire trip). Only this guy can crap his pants 3 times in 3 days in 3 Countries and then blame the media for the stink. He was even critized by Charles Krauthammer. Do you know how bad you have to suck as a republican to be critized by Krauthammer. That my friends is a very low bar. In Romney's defense it wasn't his fault that his handlers kept taking their hand out of his back and allow his mouth to move freely.

    July 31, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    @truth hurts

    well, the word racist sure gets used by the left and loons whenever something gets said that they don't like. a great way to attack and shut others down almost instantly. people are on to the nonsense. nice try.
    So the numerous signs we all saw from the 2010 Tea Party rallies depicting the President with a bone in his nose were just "cultural"? The "Obammy" term frequently used on this site has no racial undertones? What percentage of the KKK or the American Nazi Party would identify themselves as Republicans as opposed to Democrats? How about the John Birch Society? What about that Mississippi Baptist Church that refused to marry the black couple this week? Democrats? Delusion is is lying to yourself.

    July 31, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  10. Some Froggy Evening

    Culture makes all the difference.

    I graduated from high school.
    Found a good job.
    Love my family and friends.
    Work hard and treat people with respect.
    I am clean and well dressed.
    I cut my lawn, feed my cat, and pay taxes.

    But according to Mitt Romney, i am gay, i should not be
    allowed to marry my partner for life.

    Mitt Romney likes everything in some neat little box
    he can slap a label on.
    Thats not how the world works.

    July 31, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  11. jimzcarz

    I'm sorry but Romney acted like the typical American Tourist, self righteous & oblivious. I'm American btw, But, people just don't know how to Act anymore.

    July 31, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  12. Fearless Freep

    Mitt, you only have two feet.
    Amazing you can get both of them in your mouth
    at the same time.
    Wanna borrow one ?

    July 31, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  13. Steve- Illinois

    Romney knows the majority of Americans don't care one iota what the Palestinians think.

    July 31, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  14. Norman

    Lord forbid that Romney says something against the Palestinians. After all, the would be politically incorrect. But here's the facts: The Palestinian authority would rather keep its people in poverty rather than agree to a political compromise that would grant it statehood and economic prosperity. Rather than 'winning the war', it appears they are more intent on 'winning the battle' while generations of their people fester and suffer in poverty.

    July 31, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  15. D MIller

    Gov. Romney,
    Thank you for providing such a true look at how you truly are: Your belief is what your are not: racist, nor a outsourcing king, nor a Tax Evader, I believe your not a Draft Dodger.. Your actually a Military veteran with honors right? in your own words what are you?

    July 31, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. Ozzie

    Most racists lie, MittNitt.

    July 31, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
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