Robert F. McDonnell said he was a little embarrassed in early 2012 when Maureen McDonnell pitched Anatabloc to the wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, suggesting that Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s unproven dietary supplement might help Ann Romney combat multiple sclerosis.
The governor had traveled to South Carolina on the eve of the Republican primary to endorse the former Massachusetts governor for president. Maureen McDonnell met him in the state, as did Jonnie Williams.
Jurors have heard before what happened when Maureen McDonnell made her pitch aboard the campaign bus. Two McDonnell aides overheard, and one of them leapt into the conversation to steer it to another topic. That aide, Phil Cox, called the exchange a “train wreck” – one that would reflect poorly on Bob McDonnell at a time when he was a contender to be Romney’s running mate.
Bob McDonnell described his own reaction in softer terms, but he said the pitch was “inappropriate.”
“I overheard a little bit,” he said. “I knew my wife was trying to be helpful, but it felt inappropriate in that setting for Maureen to be having that discussion.”
Asked if his wife’s actions had embarrassed him, McDonnell said: “A little bit, yes.”
Bob McDonnell said he had not been aware of any effort by Maureen McDonnell to get Mitt Romney to meet with Williams during that time. And he said there would have been no way to shoehorn a meeting into Romney’s tightly scripted schedule, with two days left before the primary.
“That just was not going to happen,” Bob McDonnell.
Bob McDonnell said he shot down Maureen McDonnell when she asked if she could take a paid position on Star Scientific’s board. She initially said Williams wanted the governor himself to serve, and when Bob McDonnell said that would be inappropriate, she asked if she could serve.
“I thought that was a very bad idea,” Bob McDonnell said, noting the potential for conflicts of interest. “I think she understood that. I think that would affect me directly and I said, ‘You can’t do that.’”
After a bit more testimony from the governor, court adjourned with the defense still on direct examination of the former governor. The trial resumes Friday at 9:45 a.m.