Mitt Romney on Tuesday accused the media of looking to protect President Obama by focusing on the GOP candidate’s high-profile gaffes during his week-long foreign tour rather than more substantive policy issues he discussed.
"I realize that there will be some in the fourth estate or in whichever estate who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geo-politics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearization of Iran," Romney told Fox News. "They'll instead try to find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough years for our country."
Romney's six-day trip, with visits to the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland, was plagued by off-message comments, including suggesting in London that he had observed "disconcerting things" about the city’s readiness to host the Olympic Games.
“It's hard to know just how well it will turn out,” Romney told NBC News.
Those comments drew sharp criticism in the British press, and Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson both knocked Romney over the remarks.
Then, on Monday, Romney drew fire from Palestinian leaders after highlighting at a fundraiser the "dramatically stark difference in economic vitality" between Israel and Palestine.
Romney went on to cite a book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, that concludes culture plays a key role in determining different economic outcomes for different nations.
"Culture makes all the difference," Romney said. "And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things."
Palestinian leaders expressed outrage for what they saw as an implicit judgment of Palestinian culture, with a top PLO official telling The Associated Press the remarks were "racist."
On Tuesday, Romney told Fox News his comments had been mischaracterized and that he did not intend to comment on Palestinian culture.
"I'm not speaking about it, did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy," Romney said. "That's an interesting topic that perhaps could deserve scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that — certainly don't intend to address that during my campaign. Instead, I will point out are that the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society."
Romney's remarks at the fundraiser could still prove a political liability, however, with an aide to Obama's reelection campaign questioning Romney's "preparedness" to reporters on Monday.
“He’s now been to two countries and he’s had two countries where he has made a series of fumbles," deputy campaign press secretary Jen Psaki said.
"He’s been fumbling the foreign-policy football from country to country. And there’s a threshold question that he has to answer for the American people and that’s whether he’s prepared to be commander in chief. ... This raises some questions about his preparedness,” she said.
Tensions between the Romney campaign and the press seem high. On Tuesday, Romney's traveling press secretary Ron Gorka yelled and cursed at reporters trying to ask Romney about his gaffes as he left the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw.
"Kiss my ass," said Gorka. "This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect."
Shortly thereafter, Gorka told a second reporter to "shove it."
Gorka later called the reporters to apologize.