WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s camp accused Mitt Romney Tuesday of lacking “moral leadership” over a planned appearance with tycoon Donald Trump, who is fanning a row over the president’s birthplace.
Romney and Trump were due to appear at a fundraising event in Las Vegas on the day when the former Massachusetts governor was expected to formally clinch the Republican nomination for November’s US election after the Texas primary.
“Mitt Romney’s continued embrace of Donald Trump and refusal to condemn his disgraceful conspiracy theories demonstrates his complete lack of moral leadership,” said Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.
“If Mitt Romney lacks the backbone to stand up to a charlatan like Donald Trump because he’s so concerned about lining his campaign’s pockets, what does that say about the kind of president he would be?”
The Obama campaign also released a video, contrasting Romney’s handling of the issue with that of 2008 Republican nominee John McCain, who once dismissed a supporter’s statement that the then senator Obama was an Arab.
Trump has raised repeated questions about whether Obama is truly a natural born citizen of the United States and therefore eligible to be president, giving voice to the complaints of the fringe “birther” movement.
On Sunday, prominent ABC News conservative commentator George Will blasted the property tycoon and reality star as a “bloviating ignoramus” prompting Trump to fire back on Twitter that Will was the “dumbest” pundit of all time.
The star of the “Apprentice” also weighed in on CNBC on Tuesday, saying “nothing has changed my mind… you have a huge group of people… I walk down the street and people are screaming ‘please don’t give that up.'”
“There are some major questions here and the press doesn’t want to cover it.”
Trump later had a dust-up on CNN, as he and anchor Wolf Blitzer both accused each other of sounding “ridiculous” and the outspoken mogul admitted that Romney did not share his view of the circumstances of Obama’s birth.
“We’re all entitled to our opinions and he’s entitled to have his opinion. I don’t happen to share that opinion, it’s wonderful,” Trump said.
Romney had been forced to address the controversy on Monday, telling reporters that he didn’t agree with “all the people who support me.”
“My guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more (of the electorate) and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people,” Romney said, according to MSNBC.
Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN that Romney accepted that Obama was born in the United States, adding: “He doesn’t view the place of his birth as an issue in this campaign.”
The Obama campaign appears to see no downside to linking Romney and Trump, who’s famously flamboyant lifestyle, colorful tongue and tendency to stray off a political message threatens to be a liability for the Republican candidate.
In a surreal political moment, last year, Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and white American mother, appeared in the White House briefing room to unveil a copy of his full birth certificate in a bid to still the controversy.
The document stated that he came into the world in “Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii” on August 4, 1961 at 7:24 pm.”