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Romney brushes off missteps as third controversy mars tour windup

July 31, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, visit the World War II Warsaw Ghetto monument in Poland.
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, visit the World War II Warsaw Ghetto monument… (Janek Skarzynski / AFP/Getty…)

WARSAW -- At the end of a difficult foreign trip, Mitt Romney brushed off the controversy over remarks he has made during his three-country tour, suggesting that “the fourth estate” — the press — or “whichever estate” were looking for ways to divert attention from the economy.

Romney’s trip has been clouded by criticism — first over his questioning of the readiness of the London Olympic Games and then over an offhand comment in Israel about how the economic disparities between neighbors such as the Israelis and Palestinians, Chile and Ecuador, and the U.S. and Mexico show the “power” of “culture.” His musings on the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic drew a furious response from Palestinians.

Though the final day of Romney’s trip — which included a speech about the importance of the ties between Poland and the U.S. and a solemn procession to several memorials — went smoothly, it was marred by a third controversy. A campaign spokesman chided reporters who shouted questions about the missteps to Romney as he left a plaza near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“Show some respect,” campaign spokesman Rick Gorka told several reporters. When two reporters protested that Romney had only taken three questions from the traveling press during the tour, Gorka replied, “Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.” (Gorka later apologized the reporters). 

Fox News’ Carl Cameron asked Romney about his response to the gaffes during an interview shortly before the candidate visited two final memorials honoring the Polish revolts against Nazi Germany in 1943 and 1944.

“I realize that there will be some in the fourth estate, or in 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 replied. “They'll instead try to find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough years for our country.”

Echoing the line of his advisors who say that Romney’s remarks on economic disparities between the Israelis and the Palestinians were taken out of context, Romney denied that he had said culture can determine outcomes.

“I'm not speaking about it, did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “That's an interesting topic that perhaps could deserve scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that. 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."

During a fundraiser with top donors Monday morning at the King David Hotel, Romney compared the gross domestic product per capita of Israelis and Palestinians and said that as a businessman he had often wondered why there were “enormous disparities between the economic success of various countries.”

Romney had added that natural resources could not explain the income disparities between Israel and its neighbors and mentioned other “countries that are near or next to each other” that have large economic gaps, citing “Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States."

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

Twitter: @MaeveReston

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