Campaign 2012

Apr 21, 2012 12:30 AM by CBS News

Schweitzer targets Romney family "polygamy" past; Romney fires back

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday reacted sharply to Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer's suggestion that Romney wants to avoid talking about his family history and immigration because "then he'd have to talk about his family coming from a polygamy commune in Mexico."

In an interview with Fox News, reporter Carl Cameron asked Romney about Schweitzer's assertion that as a candidate, he refrains from talking about his father, George Romney, being born and raised in Mexico because of the family history of polygamy. Romney replied, "My dad's dad was not a polygamist. My dad grew up in a family with a mom and a dad, a few brothers and one sister."

Romney continued, "They lived in Mexico and lived a very nice life, from what I understand. And when he was 5 or 6, there was revolution in Mexico and they escaped." Romney described how the family moved from El Paso to Idaho and then California in search of a new home. "My dad had a very tough upbringing," he said.

Romney said he hadn't actually read Schweitzer's comment, but that "I do think that the immigration policy that existed in 1905, in 1910, might not be highly relevant for the election in 2012."

Schweitzer, in an interview with the Daily Beast said, "I am not alleging by any stretch that Romney is a polygamist and approves of polygamy," but went on to note that it is not in Romney's interest to claim ties to the Hispanic community even though his father was born in Mexico because "then he'd have to talk about his family coming from a polygamy commune in Mexico." And American women, he said, are "not great fans of polygamy."

Romney's father, who went on to become Michigan's governor, was born in Mexico on a Mormon compound founded by George Romney's grandfather, Miles Park Romney, who had four wives. But neither George Romney nor his father, Gaskell Romney, practiced polygamy, according to an account in the Boston Globe.

Some conservatives are blasting Schweitzer's comment as inappropriate and irrelevant.

In the conservative magazine Commentary, writer Jonathan S. Tobin called Schweitzer's comments a "nasty piece of business" and "no more relevant to the 2012 campaign than an investigation into the marital practices of President Obama's ancestors in Kenya."

"Imagine if a Republican governor of an equally obscure state were to make comments about Obama's family tree," Tobin wrote. "The furor would be tremendous, and the incident would be treated in the mainstream media as emblematic of GOP racism."

Indeed, Mr. Obama's father also apparently practiced polygamy. According to the New York Times and other accounts, Mr. Obama's father had a wife in Kenya even while he was married to Mr. Obama's mother, Ann Dunham.

(Sarah Huisenga, Lucy Madison reporting for CBS News)

Daily Beast article

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