An unnamed “adviser” to Mitt Romney who told the London Telegraph that the candidate appreciates “Anglo-Saxon heritage” better than President Obama is not speaking for the Republican campaign, a spokeswoman for the former Massachusetts governor said Wednesday.
“It’s not true,” Amanda Hennenberg said in a statement. “If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign.”
The quote has created an early dust-up between the two campaigns as Romney begins his low-key, week-long trip through Britain, Poland and Israel.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage,” an adviser told reporter Jon Swaine. “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” The reporter later tweeted to clarify that the quote came from a “member of [Romney’s] foreign policy advisory team.”
The Romney camp’s denial didn’t stop Obama’s team from weighing in.
“Despite his promises that politics stops at the water’s edge, Governor Romney’s wheels hadn’t even touched down in London before his advisors were reportedly playing politics with international diplomacy,” said Vice President Joe Biden in a statement. “This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign.”
Obama strategist David Axelrod called the quote “stunningly offensive.”
Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters she hadn’t spoken to the president about the report, but that “there are countless examples, which I’m happy to provide, of occasions where Mitt Romney and his surrogates have questioned whether the President understood America or freedom, and that really goes over a line that we think they shouldn’t.”
Another Romney spokesperson, Ryan Williams, responded to that response, saying Biden and Obama’s advisers “diminished” the presidential race by using “a false quote from a foreign newspaper to prop up their flailing campaign.” He noted that Obama’s team has repeatedly questioned the use of anonymous sources.
Romney does have a team of 22 foreign policy and national security advisers, along with 15 working group chairs. British papers have looser guidelines on anonymous quotes than most of the American press. An “adviser” could have no actual role in the campaign; the Republican’s staff rarely talks to the foreign press.
The Telegraph in particular prints many rumors and blind quotes, often infuriating Democrats. “They use anonymous sources to a degree that makes you wonder if they actually have them,” consultant Bob Shrum told Dave Weigel in 2009.
The Telegraph stands by the story and the quote. Al-Monitor Reporter Laura Rozen notes that conservative British commentator Nile Gardiner is the co-chair of Romney’s Europe Working Group, often writes on the Telegraph, and frequently uses the term “Anglo-Saxon.” But Gardiner denies being the source; he says he was contacted by the Telegraph and referred the paper to Romney’s communications team.
This post has been updated.