Photo Credit: Oli Scarff, Getty Images
Oh no he didn’t! Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, in London for the Olympics on the first leg of an international tour, gave his opinions on the Games’ much-publicized security concerns. It turned what was supposed to be a bullet-proof, press-friendly trip into a complete public relations disaster, with the worldwide media talking about Romney for all the wrong reasons.
It all started on Wednesday, when NBC News aired an interview in which the candidate said, “The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials -- that obviously is not something which is encouraging.” He went on to say that he found some of the potential issues “disconcerting.”
Among those to jab back swiftly was British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said on Thursday, "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere." The reference was a swipe at Romney, who was among the organizers of the games a decade ago in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Making matters worse for the Romney clean-up team, London Mayor Boris Johnson addressed the issue while on stage at a concert in Hyde Park to mark the end of the Olympic torch relay. "There's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know if we are ready," the mayor called out to the crowd of 60,000. "Are we ready? Yes we are!"
Even the candidate’s attempt to backtrack resulted in a Three Stooges-style mess. When speaking on the steps of Downing Street Thursday, he said that he "applauded the work of the organizing committee" of the Games. His oration fell flat with his word choice, which prompted another round of head shaking, when he said that he had enjoyed looking "out the backside of Downing Street.” Womp womp.
Among the media eating it all up is the BBC, which mentioned it near the top of every newscast Thursday, and The Telegraph, which led its coverage with, “Elevating his tendency for gaffes to the international stage…” That story’s headline sums it all up: “Mitt Romney's Olympics Gaffe Overshadows Visit to London.” Over on social media, the Twittersphere was ablaze with words to the wise for Romney, and hashtags like #Romneyshambles and #Mitthitsthefan are now trending.
Let’s hope the Romneys’ dressage horse pulls a medal in the Games and gives the candidate something to smile about. Because, well, ouch.
These are huge, Sarah Palin-style gaffes, and Romney has the extreme misfortune of making them on the international stage in the city to which all the world is looking at this very moment.
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and iVillage's chief election news blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.