The Obama campaign today offered a sharp rebuke to hecklers who tried to shout down senior strategist David Axelrod at a news conference in Boston, calling their tactics “juvenile” and “circus-like.”
Axelrod took to the steps of the Massachusetts State House this morning to criticize GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s record as governor, part of a new Democratic line of attack. Flanked by Democratic state officials and a few dozen Obama supporters lining the steps behind, he proclaimed, “Romney economics didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.”
But his audience — dozens of young, pro-Romney activists screaming and shouting just 15 feet away near a small bank of TV cameras – made it difficult to be heard.
The Republican crowd waved signs that read, “Obama Isn’t Working,” “Broken Promises,” and “Axelrod is in Fantasyland.” They boisterously chanted, “We want Mitt,” “Where are the jobs?” and “Solyndra, Solyndra, Solyndra.”
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith shrugged off the disturbance as unsurprising since Democrats were, after all, on Romney’s home turf. (His campaign headquarters is in Boston). She said Democrats have plenty of opportunities to clearly articulate their case on Romney’s gubernatorial term.
“This is the first time that anyone has gone out and given a full synopsis of what he did in Massachusetts, and we have five months to go in this campaign,” Smith said. “This is just the introduction of it. Clearly they resorted to some juvenile and circus-like tactics today to try to drown it out, but they can’t drown it out for five straight months.”
Axelrod argued that Romney’s rhetoric on job creation, size of government, education, deficits and taxes mirrors promises he made during the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign. And the results, Axelrod said, were not impressive.
“You can shout down speakers, my friends, but it is hard to Etch-A-Sketch the truth away,” he told the protesters.
Gov. Romney made “the same promises, the same representations, the very same language” a decade ago, Axelrod said. “Interestingly, when Gov. Romney rolled out his candidacy just a few miles away in New Hampshire a few weeks ago after he clinched the nomination, he spoke for 15 or 20 minutes and never found the time to mention that he once had been the governor of Massachusetts, the one elective office he ever held. And there’s good reason for that.
“The Massachusetts record was alarmingly weak,” he said.
Axelrod tried to take questions from reporters, who had to crouch down and shout so he could hear. Protesters chanted “Where are the jobs?” over and over.
“You can’t handle the truth, my friends. That’s the problem,” he said, addressing the crowd. “If you could handle the truth, you’d quiet down.” They didn’t.
Meanwhile, at a press conference of his own outside the bankrupt solar start-up Solyndra, Inc., in Fremont, Calif., Mitt Romney refused to apologize for the hecklers at Axelrod’s event, claiming Democrats have infiltrated some of his.
“Many of the events I go to, there are large groups of, if you will, Obama supporters there heckling me. And at some point you say, ‘You know what, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,’” Romney said.
“If they’re going to be heckling us, why, we’re not going to sit back and play by very different rules. If the president is going to have his people coming to my rallies and heckling, why, we’ll show them that, you know, we conservatives have the same kind of capacity he does.”
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt seemed to deny the charge on Twitter, saying that the governor’s statement “invents a mythic event in which our campaign ‘heckled’ him.”
Reporters traveling with Romney have observed several instances when pro-Obama supporters have interrupted Gov. Romney mid-speech.
At a May 18 event in Hillsborough, N.H., Obama supporters were so loud that Romney addressed them in his speech. “You know, we have behind us a Greek chorus,” he said, signaling to a group of about 25 Obama supporters who stood nearby shouting “Four More Years!”
“I say that because they remind us that this president is leading us towards Greece. And one reason we’re going to get rid of him is so that we make sure that we don’t continue to have the kind of deficits that lead to Greece. So I hope they keep up with their Greek chorus over there.”
And just last week, visiting a charter school in West Philadelphia, the Obama campaign organized a press conference that drew several Obama supporters who stood outside chanting “Four more years” and holding signs criticizing the governor.
ABC News Michael Falcone contributed to this report.