WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Mitt Romney mistakenly confused the words “Sikh” and “sheik” at a fundraiser here Tuesday night when he offered his condolences to the victims of last weekend’s shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee correctly spoke of the Sikh religion earlier in the day when he observed a moment of silence at a campaign event in Illinois. But at the Iowa fundraiser, he instead talked about the “sheik temple” and the “sheik people.” Sheik is an Arabic honorific, whereas Sikh is a religion with roots in South Asia.
Referencing his earlier event in the Chicago area, Romney said: “We had a moment of silence in honor of the people who lost their lives at that sheik temple. I noted that it was a tragedy for many, many reasons. Among them are the fact that people, the sheik people, are among the most peaceable and loving individuals you can imagine, as is their faith. And of course, the person who carried out this heinous act was a person motivated by racial hatred and religious intolerance.”
Romney spokesman Rick Gorka said the candidate “mispronounced similar sounding words,” noting that he was clearly referring to the Wisconsin shooting and not trying to offend people of Sikh faith.
Gorka also pointed out that the comment came at the end of a long day of campaigning. Romney left his New Hampshire home at 7 a.m. and traveled between three states, holding three events and taping an interview before he took to the microphone at the evening finance reception in West Des Moines.
The event raised between $1.8 million to $2 million. Romney’s Iowa campaign co-chairman, David Oman, said it was “the largest and most successful presidential fundraiser we have ever had in the history of the state of Iowa.”