Romney denies criticizing Palestinian culture

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

WARSAW, Poland—Mitt Romney insisted Tuesday he was not specifically talking about Palestinian culture at a fundraiser in Israel on Monday when he was quoted suggesting culture was the reason for the economic disparity between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"That's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that," Romney told Fox News' Carl Cameron, adding he didn't "intend" to talk about the subject in his campaign. "Instead, I will point out … that the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and vitality of that society."

Palestinian officials accused Romney of making "racist" statements after the Republican candidate was quoted comparing Israel's economy with that of the Palestinian territories.

"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," Romney told a group of Jewish donors at a Jerusalem fundraiser that netted more than $1 million for his campaign.

The Republican candidate told supporters he began noting "enormous disparities" between neighboring countries during his time in the business world and cited a 1998 book, "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations" by David Landes, which studied why some countries did better than others.

"He says if you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it's this: Culture makes all the difference," Romney told supporters. "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."

In the interview with Fox News, Romney played down his perceived gaffes during his foreign tour over the last week, including his comment to NBC News that he found London's Olympic preparations "disconcerting." He accused the media of being more interested in "finding something to write about" than focusing on real issues.

"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 said.