Friday, December 21, 2007

Romney Backpedals on Statements _ Again

AP - Mitt Romney, who earlier this year had to backpedal on his hunting exploits, is explaining himself again after claiming an endorsement he did not receive and saying he witnessed his father in civil rights marches he could not have seen.

"It's a figure of speech," Romney said Thursday after media inquiries into the Republican presidential contender's statement during his recent religion speech that he watched his father, the late Gov. George Romney of Michigan, march with Martin Luther King Jr.

Romney, who was in high school at the time, later said he only heard of his father marching, and some historians have questioned whether his father, in fact, did march with King. The Romney campaign provided books and news articles it said supported his statement.

Romney said it was akin to him stating, "I saw my dad become president of American Motors." He told reporters in Iowa, "I wasn't there when he became president."

Romney similarly backtracked after telling a national television audience Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "I received the endorsement of the NRA" in 2002 while running for governor of Massachusetts.

The gun rights group did not endorse either candidate, and gave a higher issues rating to his Democratic opponent.

Romney said Monday, "It was, if you will, a support phone bank, which is not an official endorsement."

The questions are especially sensitive for Romney, who is trying to rebound against rival Mike Huckabee in Iowa and maintain a lead in New Hampshire, the leadoff contests in the voting for presidential nominees.

Throughout his campaign, he has been dogged by allegations of flip-flopping on key issues, from abortion rights to gun control and gay rights.

"It's the fine-tuning that's created the problem. It's always that one extra step that causes him the trouble," said Tobe Berkovitz, a longtime Romney observer and the interim dean of Boston University's College of Communication. "You can't just say that African-Americans were accepted into the church and I was happy, you have to say you pulled over and you cried."

The latter was a reference to another statement Romney made on "Meet the Press," in which he tried to convey his emotion after learning in 1978 his Mormon church had given full privileges to blacks.

Romney recalled his exact location when he heard the news — the Fresh Pond traffic rotary in Cambridge — but he misspoke when he said he thought he was in law school at the time. In fact, he had graduated from Harvard Law School three years earlier......

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