In his first comments addressing multiple gaffes during his overseas trip, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday fell back on a staple of troubled political campaigns: Blame the media.
Asked about his missteps in an interview with Fox News’ Carl Cameron before he left Poland on Tuesday, Romney accused reporters of trivializing the substance of his trip and trying to divert attention from President Obama’s stewardship of the economy.
“And I realize that there will be some in the Fourth Estate, or whichever estate, who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geopolitics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearization of Iran,” Romney said, according to a transcript of the interview that aired on Tuesday morning. “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 also seemed to back away from controversial comments he made on Monday in which he cited cultural differences as a reason for Israel’s economic superiority to the Palestinian Authority. He told Fox News, “I did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy. That’s an interesting topic that perhaps could deserve scholarly analysis, but I actually didn’t address that. I certainly don’t intend to address that during my campaign. Instead, I will point out that the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society.”
At an event for campaign donors in Israel on Monday, Romney mused about why some countries are more economically successful than others, and he tied Israeli culture to its economic progress and gross domestic product, drawing a negative comparison to the less prosperous areas controlled by the Palestinians. “You look at Israel and you say you have a hard time suggesting that all of the natural resources on the land could account for all the accomplishment of the people here,” Romney said. “If you can learn anything from the economic history of the world, it's this: Culture makes all the difference.”
Palestinians have spent decades under an Israeli occupation that has crippled their economic development, not a point Romney has made during his trip. One Palestinian official called his comments “racist.” That came after British officials – including the prime minister and the mayor of London – took Romney to task last week for criticizing their Olympics preparations, and before a press aide hurled obscenities at reporters Tuesday in Warsaw.
Top Romney strategist Stuart Stevens told reporters in Warsaw that Romney’s private meetings had gone well and his trip was “a great success.” Asked if gaffes had undercut the trip, he replied, “I think people understand that elections are about big things … I think it means absolutely nothing to the people at home because it has no relevance to their life. It doesn’t matter.”
Sarah Huisenga contributed.