As Mitt Romney landed Wednesday in London to launch a three-country overseas trip, an anonymous quote in a British paper caused a kerfuffle on both sides of the pond. A British newspaper quoted an unnamed Romney adviser as saying that President Obama's White House did not sufficiently appreciate the shared "Anglo-Saxon" heritage of the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Romney campaign denied that the governor or the campaign shared the sentiment. "It's not true," wrote spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg in an e-mail. "If anyone said that, they weren't reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign."
The Obama campaign seized on the quote, with Vice President Joe Biden saying that Romney's advisers were "playing politics with international diplomacy" despite pledging to avoid castigating Obama's policies while overseas.
"The comments reported this morning are a disturbing start to a trip designed to demonstrate Governor Romney's readiness to represent the United States on the world's stage," Biden said. "This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign."
Romney's camp hit back, saying that it was Biden who was diminishing the discourse. "The vice president of the United States used an anonymous and false quote from a foreign newspaper to prop up their flailing campaign," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.
Obama officials have routinely shot down anonymous sources, such as the purported Indian government official quoted that the president's trip there in 2010 would cost taxpayers $200 million per day. (The figure, which picked up by conservative critics of Obama, was found to be false and grossly exaggerated.)
But the quote is resonating because of its racial implications and its suggestion that the president is less than fully American. That is rooted in the discredited birther movement, which posits the president was not born in the United States. Obama was born in Hawaii, but his father was African and Obama lived in Indonesia for a time as a child.
Romney has said he believes the president was born in the United States, though he has stood alongside prominent birthers such as Donald Trump. And a Romney surrogate, John Sununu, said recently the president needed to "learn how to be an American," for which he later apologized.