DeWITT, Mich. — Mitt Romney declined to commit to telling his campaign to stop heckling President Obama’s campaign, just days after the president’s strategist condemned those who had heckled the GOP candidate during his bus tour this weekend.
“I know America has a long history of heckling,” said Romney during an interview with “Kilmeade and Friends” on Fox. “Free speech, but it would be very nice if we could reach that kind of conclusion. I’m not sure it’s possible, but that would certainly be a nice setting to reach.”
After groups of protesters came close to drowning out two of Romney’s campaign events in Ohio on Sunday, Obama’s senior campaign strategist David Axelrod condemned the behavior, remarking on Twitter that the tactics exhibited by the protesters were more attune to something the Romney campaign would do.
In May, Axelrod was heckled by members of the Romney campaign its supporters during a press conference he held in Boston meant to highlight Romney’s record as governor.
But Romney appeared more reluctant to condemn the behavior, and when asked if he will “urge” his staff to stop heckling, Romney responded, “I can assure you that we do not believe in unilateral disarmament.”
“Hey, hey, bilateral disarmament, that’s a different matter, but unilateral, no way,” added Romney.
In May, Romney had similar thoughts on hecklers, telling reporters, “At some point you say, you know what, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
“If they’re going to be heckling us, why we’re not going to sit back and play by very different rules,” said Romney on the day of the Boston heckling incident, and after several of his own campaign events had been disrupted by pro-Obama chants.
“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,” he said.
Obama for America National Press Secretary Ben LaBolt released the following statement today:
“We have sent a strong message to our supporters that this campaign should be an open exchange of ideas, not one where we drown out the other side by heckling and crashing events. We will win this campaign on the merits — ultimately Americans will side with the candidate who has the best agenda to restore security for the middle class. Campaigns are a reflection of their candidate, and Mitt Romney has a different view, endorsing heckling. With all that’s at stake in this election, Americans deserve better.”