Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets Sarita Weltman… (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mitt Romney said Thursday that he did not approve of a proposal for a racially-tinged ad campaign from an outside group that considered invoking controversial comments of President Obama’s former pastor, telling reporters he wanted to “make it very clear I repudiate that effort.”
“I think it’s the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign,” Romney said, after gathering reporters to address the report in Thursday’s New York Times about the proposed ad campaign put together by several Republican strategists. “I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the future, and about issues and about a vision for America.”
Officials at the Ending Spending Action Fund and the billionaire businessman who would have funded the ad campaign denounced the proposed plan on Thursday after the New York Times published the story and they said it had never been greenlighted.
In February, Romney criticized the relationship between Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. in a radio interview with Sean Hannity. Hannity had played a clip for Romney in which Obama had said “given the increase in diversity” in America, “the dangers of sectarianism are greater than ever. Whatever we once were we are no longer a Christian nation ...“ Hannity abruptly cut off the clip there, editing the president’s quote in a manner that distorted its meaning, and asked Romney for his thoughts.
“I think again that the president takes his philosophical leanings in this regard, not from those who are ardent believers in various faiths but instead from those who would like America to be more secular,” Romney told Hannity in that interview. “And I’m not sure which is worse, him listening to Rev. Wright or him saying that we must be a less Christian nation.”
Asked Thursday what he had meant when he said President Obama was trying to make America a less Christian nation, Romney said he could not recall the context of the remarks.
“I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was,” he told reporters at the hastily scheduled press availability to respond to the New York Times report. “I’ll go back and take a look on what was said there. The focus of my campaign is going to be, as I’ve just suggested, on the future and on who can do best to build an America that has great promise and great opportunity for fulfillment of dreams.”
He declined to respond to a question about whether he believed President Obama’s world view was shaped by Rev. Wright and whether he saw any evidence of Wright’s influence in his policies.
Romney made his first public remarks about the matter in an exclusive interview with townhall.com, which bills itself as the top website for conservatives. Even before the controversy reemerged on Thursday, the website includes an extensive number of articles about Wright, including a column published in March titled “Vetting Obama’s Pastor,” alleging Wright may have had ties with mass murderers in Cuba.
Romney later reiterated his repudiation of the ad proposal when he spoke with reporters who were traveling with him after an event in Jacksonville, Florida.
In the February radio interview, Hannity cut off the president’s statement mid-sentence. In the full quote, the president did not say that the United States is no longer a Christian nation; he said that the nation is made up of Christians, people of other faiths and nonbelievers.
“Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation -- at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers,” Obama said.
Times reporter Seema Mehta contributed to this post
Original source: Romney: Rev. Wright ads 'the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign'