EUCLID, Ohio – Mitt Romney ignored the comment of a woman at a town hall event here who suggested that President Obama be charged with treason, a crime punishable by death.
At the gathering outside Cleveland, the woman stood up to ask Romney a question, saying, “We have a president right now who is operating outside the structure of our Constitution, and I do agree he should be tried for treason.”
Instead of addressing the “treason” reference by the woman, who went on to ask what the candidate would do to balance the three branches of government and restore the Constitution, Romney responded, “As I’m sure you do, I happen to believe that the Constitution was not just brilliant, but probably inspired. I believe the same thing about the Declaration of Independence.”
Later, as he shook hands with supporters, Romney was asked by reporters whether he agreed with the woman, to which he responded “No, of course not.” Asked by CNN about the woman’s comment, Romney said, “I don’t correct all of the questions that get asked of me. Obviously, I don’t agree that he should be tried.”
Ben LaBolt, the press secretary for the Obama re-election campaign, immediately seized on the incident, tweeting, “When will Mitt Romney stand up to the extreme voices in his party? Where’s the leadership he keeps calling for?”
LaBolt also wrote, “Once again today, Mitt Romney stood by silently as his surrogates and supporters made extreme statements & attacked the President’s family.”
Lis Smith, a Obama campaign spokeswoman, wrote in a statement, “Today we saw Mitt Romney’s version of leadership: standing by silently as his chief surrogate attacked the President’s family at the event and another supporter alleged that the President should be tried for treason. Time after time in this campaign, Mitt Romney has had the opportunity to show that he has the fortitude to stand up to hateful and over-the-line rhetoric and time after time, he has failed to do so. If this is the ‘leadership’ he has shown on the campaign trail, what can the American people expect of him as commander-in-chief?”
Romney’s former GOP rival Sen. Rick Santorum was similarly criticized for not correcting a woman who called President Obama an “avowed Muslim” during a campaign event in Florida earlier this year, telling reporters after the fact, “I don’t think it’s my responsibility. Why don’t you go out and correct her? It’s not my responsibility as a candidate to correct everybody who makes a statement that I disagree with.”
In contrast, Sen. John McCain, who has endorsed Romney, did step in to correct a woman during his own bid for the White House in 2008 when she called Obama an “Arab.”
“No, no ma’am, he’s a decent, family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is about,” McCain said at the time.