In Romney’s 1st interview abroad, lots of topics he’d rather skip

LONDON -- Mitt Romney’s visit to London this week for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Gameswas meant as a reminder of one of his signature achievements: turning around the 2002 Salt Lake City Games after they were mired in scandal.

But during his first televised interview abroad, Romney fielded a string of questions from “NBC Nightly News” host Brian Williams on topics that his campaign would rather skip at the start of a foreign tour intended to show the candidate’s agility on the international stage. Among them: gun control, his religion, his likability, his tax returns and a quote from “unnamed advisor” in the Daily Telegraph that unhelpfully referenced Romney’s Anglo Saxon heritage.

To top that all off, Williams—who noted that he hadn’t been able to interview Romney outside the GOP primary debates—began the interview by asking about the participation of Rafalca, the dressage horse that his wife co-owns, in the Olympic Games.


Romney immediately seemed to distance himself from that part of the Games, stating that it was “a big, exciting experience” for his wife, Ann, and for her trainer, Jan Ebeling, who is riding Rafalca in the competition. “Obviously it’s fun to be part of the Olympics in any way you can be a part of them,” he said.

When Williams pressed Romney for some details about the participation of Rafalca and Ebeling, who earned a place on the U.S. Olympic equestrian team in June—how many rounds and how many chances to win—Romney said he was not familiar with the details.

“I have to tell you. This is Ann’s sport,” he told Williams in an interview that aired on “Nightly News” on Wednesday. “I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on.” He said he would not be watching the event, but hoped her horse would do well.

Williams then delved into a series of questions about the shooting in Aurora, Colo., last week, prompting Romney to reiterate his view that he does not believe America “needs new gun laws.” “A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law, but the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening,” the presumed Republican nominee said.

Romney added that he didn’t know whether, as president, he would be able to prevent people who want to do harm “from being able to purchase things that could carry out that harm.”,0,2461655.story?track=rss

“What I want to do is find the people who represent a danger to America—and find them and keep them from having the capacity to use or buy things that could … hurt other people,” the candidate said.

On another subject, Romney said he would release his 2011 tax returns when they were complete—but said he had watched Democrats dishonestly use information about his finances in attack ads. “I just don’t want to give them more material than is required,” he told Williams.

After covering Romney’s taxes, his religion (he’s proud of it and of his heritage), and his likability, Williams circled back to whether there should be a “national conversation” about the ability of a man like the Aurora shooter to legally buy an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and 6,000 rounds of ammunition off the Internet.

“We can sometimes hope that just changing a law will make all bad things go away. It won’t. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential to improve the lots of the American people,” said Romney, adding that he was open to hearing all ideas.

Romney got the better of Williams—and likely some laughs at home—during an exchange about his vice presidential choice, which he is expected to make shortly after his foreign tour. Williams challenged the candidate to confirm or deny a report that his campaign was seeking an “incredibly boring white guy” as a running mate.

“You told me you were not available,” Romney deadpanned.

“I can’t give you anything,” he added with a laugh, “on that front whatsoever.”

Twitter: @maevereston