ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said on Monday that it was not his practice to “scold the audience” for their behavior at debates, whether it was booing a gay solider or cheering for executions.
In an interview with the editor and publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader on Monday, Romney said he did not see it as his role to make a judgment about members of the audience at a recent debate in Florida who booed when an openly gay Army soldier asked a videotaped question.
“I think we can hear the boos. I would tell you that in these debates there’s been a lot of booing and a lot of applause, cheering and booing — some of which I don’t agree with,” Romney said. “Now, I have not made it my practice to scold the audience and say, ‘I disagree with this person, I agree with that person’ because it goes in a lot of different directions. I don’t recall whether this soldier — whether people were booing his question or just…”
A Union-Leader editorial board member interrupted Romney’s answer, asserting that the crowd was, in fact, booing the solider and not the question.
“You have to look at that. I don’t know when they booed and I don’t know why people booed, but I will tell you that the boos and the applause has not always coincided with my own views,” Romney said, “but I haven’t stepped in to try and say, ‘this one’s right and this one’s wrong.’ Instead I focus on the things I think I ought to say.”
Romney did not go as far as fellow candidate Herman Cain, who told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview over the weekend that “in retrospect” he should have said something when the audience booed.
“I understand his thoughts,” Romney said of Cain’s comment.
Over the weekend, President Obama lashed out at the Republican candidates for their silence.
“We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the president of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed,” Obama told the audience at a Human Rights Campaign dinner Saturday night.
Other candidates have been more definitive.
In an interview with ABC News after the Fox News-Google Debate in Orlando, Fla. last month, Jon Huntsman called the crowd’s reaction “totally unfortunate and unnecessary.”
“When someone in uniform asks a question,” Huntsman said, “the first response should be thanking the soldier for his or her service.”
In the newspaper editorial board meeting on Monday, which was videotaped by C-SPAN, Romney seemed to take greater issue with crowd’s reaction at a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in early September when a moderator noted that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has overseen more executions than any other governor in “modern times.”
“There were people who cheered when the statement was made at the Reagan Library — a number of — 200 and some-odd people had been executed in Texas,” Romney said. “I don’t know that cheering for executions is something I would agree with either. But I don’t raise my hand and say, ‘please let me talk, I want to tell everyone you shouldn’t be cheering.’ I haven’t made it my practice to listen to the cheers and the boos and then try and correct the people on their expressions of their views.”