Romney refuses to apologize for sign

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EXETER, N.H. (AP) – Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is refusing to apologize for posing with a sign that said “No to Osama, Obama and Chelsea’s Moma,” lumping two Democratic rivals with the Sept. 11 mastermind.

“I don’t look at all the signs when I’m having pictures taken. I have a lot of pictures taken with people,” Romney said. “I don’t really spend all that much time looking at the signs and the T-shirts and the buttons. I don’t have anything to say about a sign somebody else was holding.”

Romney posed for the photograph while campaigning in South Carolina last week. A member of the audience at a town hall in Exeter pushed him to apologize, saying it was inappropriate to compare Democratic Sen. Barack Obama with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist plots. It also referenced Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea was part of the handwritten sign.

“I’m just concerned because I can remember where I was at on Sept. 11,” said Jerid Kurtz, a New Hampshire-based contributor to Buckeye State Blog. “How can you compare any American to Osama bin Laden? How can you do that?”

Kurtz’s bio on the Web site notes he is a former Democratic campaign operative.

“You know what? Lighten up slightly,” Romney said.

“There are a lot of jokes out there. I’m not responsible for all the signs I see.”

Romney told reporters he can’t screen every visual of the campaign.

“I get pictures taken all the time, T-shirts and signs and so forth; I don’t subscribe to all them,” Romney said. “I can’t keep track of all the pictures I get taken … I put my arms around folks. I’m sure some of them, upon inspection, you’ll say, ‘Uh-oh, why were you with that person?”‘

Romney spent his Sunday taking aim at Democratic rivals, calling them all unprepared to lead the country and comparing Clinton’s economic plan to that of Socialist Karl Marx. Romney, who leads Republicans in New Hampshire, has focused his criticism in recent weeks on Clinton, Obama and former Sen. John Edwards rather than rival Republicans.

AP-ES-07-23-07 1115EDT

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