(LONDON) — Mitt Romney, speaking to a group of more than 200 supporters in a hotel in the heart of London Thursday evening, said he is “looking forward” to returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the White House after it was sent back to Great Britain by President Obama.
The GOP candidate, who suffered a brutal day of press after he suggested that he wasn’t sure the London Olympics would go off without a hitch, spoke highly of the British monuments, singling out the Churchill statue that he said he got a firsthand look at while stuck in traffic — likely caused by the Olympic Games.
“You live here, you see the sites day in and day out, but for me as I drive past the sculpture of Winston Churchill and see that great sculpture next to Westminster Abbey and Parliament and with him larger than life, enormous heft of that sculpture suggesting the scale of the the grandeur and the greatness of the man, it tugs at the heart strings to remember the kind fo example that was led by Winston Churchill,” said Romney, speaking in a ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on the edge of Hyde Park. “And I’m looking forward to the bust of Winston Churchill being in the Oval Office again,” Romney said, evoking applause from the group that helped the candidate raise more than $2 million for his campaign.
Romney’s remarks about the Churchill bust came the day after an article in a British newspaper blindly quoted advisors — who Romney said he did not know — who asserted that the candidate really wants the statue back in Washington D.C.
Obama returned the bust in 2009, drawing ire from the British press who said that the move had made some leaders “nervous” about what the gesture meant for U.S.-U.K. relations. The bust had a home in the Oval Office during President George W. Bush’s administration.
The desire to have Churchill’s bust returned to the White House was a sentiment expressed by one of two Romney advisors who spoke anonymously to the British newspaper the Telegraph. The story has since ignited a firestorm of criticism of the candidate, who had vowed that his campaign would not speak ill of the Obama administration while on foreign soil.
Romney, who has distanced himself from the unnamed advisors who also suggested in the story that the White House doesn’t appreciate the “Anglo-Saxon” relationship between the U.K and the United States, appeared to echo their assertion that he’d like the Churchill statue to return Washington.
The advisers told the Telegraph that Romney would “seek to reinstate the Churchill bust” and one told the paper that Romney “viewed the move as ‘symbolically important.'”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Theodore Schleifer, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Euan McKirdy, Bryony Jones and Barry Neild, CNN