Europe

Romney wraps up overseas tour amid tensions with media

  • 31 July 2012
  • From the section Europe

US presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrapped up his overseas tour in Poland, as frustrations between his campaign and journalists boiled over.

In a foreign policy speech in Warsaw, the former Massachusetts governor praised Poland's economy as a model of small government and free enterprise.

But it was a Romney spokesman who captured headlines by lashing out at US reporters asking questions.

The Republican is set to challenge President Obama in November's polls.

On Tuesday, Mr Romney's travelling press secretary, Rick Gorka, lost his cool with reporters who tried to question the candidate after he visited Warsaw's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

'Shove it'

At a public plaza near the memorial, journalists from CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post asked Mr Romney about "mishaps" and "gaffes" on his trip.

Mr Gorka said: "Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people."

He then told a reporter from Politico to "shove it". The press secretary apologised soon afterwards to correspondents.

Mr Romney later told Fox News that journalists had been more interested in "finding something to write about" other than reporting on the economy and national security threats.

But US media have been complaining that Mr Romney only took three press questions - outside Downing Street in London - during the entirety of his six-day trip.

Mr Romney's tour of the UK, Israel and Poland was intended to burnish his profile globally, but it has been overshadowed by media reports of his perceived missteps.

At the weekend, he declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, even though US policy holds that the city's designation is a matter for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

He was also accused of racism after he told an audience of Jewish donors that cultural differences explained why Israel's economy was much larger than that of the Palestinians.

And he was excoriated by the British media on the first leg of his tour in London, when he questioned the country's readiness to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Swipe at Obama?

Following the press secretary's outburst on Tuesday, Mr Romney delivered a set-piece speech.

He praised Poland's efforts since the fall of communism to embrace small government and a market economy - the same formula he says is needed to revive sluggish US growth.

He said Poland had spurned the "false promise" of a government-dominated economy, remarks that correspondents said were aimed at President Obama and his Democratic allies.

Speaking in the library of Warsaw University, Mr Romney said: "The world should pay close attention to the transformation of Poland's economy.

"A march toward economic liberty and smaller government has meant a march toward higher living standards, a strong military that defends liberty at home and abroad, and an important and growing role on the international stage."

Analysts say Mr Romney's two-day trip to Poland was designed to attract Polish-American and Catholic voters in the US.

It was also seen as a way of highlighting his hawkish stance toward Russia, whom he once labelled America's "number one geopolitical foe".

Taking a swipe at Poland's neighbour on Tuesday, Mr Romney said: "In Russia, once-promising advances toward a free and open society have faltered."

The Republican also praised the Polish trade union movement, Solidarity, which helped topple communist rule.

But Solidarity distanced itself from Mr Romney on Monday, saying he had supported attacks on unions in his own country.

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