Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) is trying to walk back remarks he made yesterday in Israel, according to Talking Points Memo. In an interview with Fox News’s Carl Cameron, Romney insisted that his remarks were misunderstood, that he “did not speak about the Palestinian culture or about the decisions made in their economy” and that any negative judgments against the Palestinians people were being fabricated by his listeners.
On an international tour that has been plagued by missteps and dogged by an increasingly restive press contingent, Romney made remarks yesterday to a group of donors at a $25,000-a-plate fundraiser regarding the disparity between the “economic vitality” of Israel and Palestine. Disregarding the crippling effects that heavy embargos and economic sanctions have had on the Palestinian economy, Romney blithely attributed the fact that Israelis generally make several times the average annual wages of Palestinians to the “power of culture and a few other things,” including “the hand of Providence.”
Those pronouncements kicked off a firestorm around the world. In his interview with Cameron, Romney tried to spin away the controversy, insisting that he never meant to criticize the Palestinian people.
The White House has asked for clarification from Romney on further remarks he made deeming Jerusalem the capital of Israel, a political hot-button issue in the region’s ongoing peace negotiations. Tel Aviv is officially the capital of Israel, but conservative Jews and Zionists believe that the holy city of Jerusalem is the rightful capital.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat spoke for many when he asked, “What is this man doing here?” In an interview with the Associated Press, he said, “Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced than Palestinian culture. Isn’t this racism?”
In today’s Fox News interview, Romney demurred when asked to explain his cultural and economic theories about the Middle East in more detail, preferring to offhandedly invoke a more standard “personal responsibility” Republican narrative.
“That is an interesting topic that perhaps can deserve scholarly analysis but I actually didn’t address that,” Romney said. “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.”
Watch video of Romney’s interview with Cameron, embedded via YouTube, below: