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Mitt Romney’s Most Delightfully Awkward Moments

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: @senatorromney, Getty

For many years, Mitt Romney has been my absolute favorite Republican politician. Today that’s true for many Democrats, but my affection for the Utah senator predates his vote to impeach Donald Trump and his willingness to publicly trash fellow GOP senator Josh Hawley. I started blogging about politics for New York months before the 2012 election and many obscure Romney facts remain seared in my mind. While I disagree with most of Romney’s political views, once they stopped posing much of a threat to me personally I felt free to enjoy his robotic rich guy antics. I have a deep, childish appreciation for political gaffes and Romney truly mastered the form (before Donald Trump came along and twisted our conception of what a gaffe even is).

In honor of Romney’s decision to self-deport from the U.S. Senate rather than running for another term I’d like to take a look back at his most delightfully awkward moments. Of course, not all of Mitt’s gaffes were innocent; for instance, that secretly recorded video of him writing off the 47 percent of the country “who believe that they are victims” still seems pretty bad. But out of respect for Romney’s decision not to perpetuate the U.S. gerontocracy I’ll focus on his more harmless and entertaining blunders.

The time he strapped his dog to the roof rack.

You probably remember that Mitt Romney used a highly questionable method of canine transportation. But there are some incredible details about Romney’s fateful 1983 family vacation that you’ve probably forgotten. His dog’s name was Seamus. Romney built a windshield for the dog carrier so Seamus would be more comfortable during the 12-hour trip to Lake Huron. Romney told his five boys they would not be making unscheduled bathroom stops, but that plan went out the window when Seamus got diarrhea. When this incident became an issue in the 2012 election Romney tried to defend himself by claiming it was a “completely air-tight” kennel, old Seamus “enjoyed himself,” and he was unaware that he was breaking a Massachusetts law.

Perhaps this trip wasn’t delightful for the Irish setter. People certainly found the story horrifying back in 2012, but in retrospect the controversy seems quaint. Imagine if one of Trump’s worst scandals involved him constructing a doggie windshield because he desperately wanted to bring his beloved pooch on vacation but he didn’t fit in the station wagon.

The time he defended corporate personhood.

In 2011 Romney told Iowa State Fair attendees that he was a folksy man of the people by putting one foot up on a hay bale and succinctly paraphrasing the the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC. “Corporations are people, my friend,” Romney informed a heckler.

The time he summed up lemonade a little too well.

Sometimes being succinct is a good thing, and sometimes it just reinforces the idea that you’re a creepy robot whose coding on human customs got corrupted. Romney learned this on the campaign trail in summer 2012 when he was asked how his lemonade tasted and he replied, “Lemon. Wet. Good.”

The time he was surprised a man wasn’t ‘in sport.’

Romney often sounds like he and C. Montgomery Burns were school chums, like when he uses the term “in sport” where most people would say “sports.”

The most famous example of this happened when Romney described meeting a seven-foot man in June 2012.

“Yeah, handsome, great big guy, seven feet tall! Name is Rick Miller—Portland, Oregon,” Romney told a crowd in Texas. “And he started a business. Of course you know it was in basketball. But it wasn’t in basketball! I mean, I, figured he had to be in sport, but he wasn’t in sport.”

The time he tried to make a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry.

Even Monty Burns knows that average joes wager a Coke, not $10k.

The time he said some of his best friends are NASCAR team owners.

While greeting NASCAR fans in February 2012, the AP asked Romney if he follows the sport. “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners,” he replied.

The time he shared his enthusiasm for firing people.

Throughout the 2012 election Romney kept trying to get voters to look past his “guy who bought your dad’s company and fired everybody” vibe. So it was a gift to his opponents when he uttered the line “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”

The time he proved himself unfit for Republican politics by speaking French.

In his youth Romney spent two years living in France as a Mormon missionary, and decades later he’d occasionally drop a “Bien sur!” or a “Bonjour, je m’appelle Mitt Romney.” Videos of Romney chatting with voters en français are a little awkward, but his real misstep here was not anticipating that by 2012 this would be unacceptable to freedom fry-loving Republicans. In 2012 primary rival Newt Gingrich dropped an attack ad that concluded, “And just like John Kerry, he speaks French too!”

The time his horse danced in the Olympics.

People also accused Romney of being an elitist just because he co-owned a horse named Rafalca who competed in dressage at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Okay, while Rafalca’s rider insisted horse ballet is “something you can do with a normal budget,” it actually does sound pretty elitist.)

The time he came out as a Twihard.

During the 2012 election Romney told NBC News that his free time wasn’t all about aller à la bibliothèque. “I like silly stuff, too,” Romney said. “I like the ‘Twilight series. That was fun.”

When asked if he likes vampires he replied, “I don’t like them personally. I don’t know any.” But this photo of a delighted Romney meeting Robert Pattinson says otherwise.

The time he wondered ‘Who let the dogs out? (Who? Who?)’

While posing for a photo with a group of Black teens during a 2008 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade Romney inexplicably uttered a line from the 2000 Baha Men hit “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

The moment was featured in a 2012 Barack Obama radio ad. “That’s Mitt Romney caught on tape,” said the narrator. “Why would we want someone that out of touch in the White House?” In retrospect this seems a little unfair. Who would have guessed that Romney knew the chorus to a popular song released after 1976?

The time he insulted a local bakery’s cookies.

When presented with baked goods during an April 2012 campaign stop in Pennsylvania Romney accused the woman sitting next to him of serving him convenience store cookies.

“I’m not sure about these cookies. They don’t look like you made them,” Romney said. “No, no. They came from the local 7-Eleven, bakery, or whatever.”

Romney took a lot of flak when it was revealed that the cookies were actually from Bethel Bakery, a popular local business. But he might have come out on top because 7-Eleven sent him some free cookies to prove they aren’t gross.

The times he praised Michigan’s trees for being the ‘right height.’

Romney repeated this line several times during the 2012 campaign, though no one had any idea what he was talking about.

The time he bragged about having ‘binders full of women.’

Romney’s weird response to a question about pay equity during the 2012 debate did not go over well at the time, but compared to the 2016 Republican presidential nominee Romney sounds like a raging feminist.

The time he ironed himself.

Can you believe America didn’t want this wild, fun-loving guy to be president?

The time he revealed his passion for hot dogs.

During Romney’s 2018 Senate run the Washington Examiner reported that while dining with supporters he declared, “My favorite meat is hot dog, by the way. That is my favorite meat.”

At the time this was viewed as a clumsy attempt to prove he was a man of the people, but it seems he’s a true hot dog enthusiast. While isolating following a COVID exposure in spring 2020, Romney told the Salt Lake Tribune that hot dogs are a cornerstone of his personal food pyramid.

“My son Josh brought over tons of food. He went to Costco this morning and brought in all sorts of supplies for me: ramen, rice, beans, peanut butter, hotdogs, hamburger — all of my favorite food groups,” he said.

The time he blew out his birthday candles individually.

In 2019 Romney’s Senate staff presented him with a cake made entirely out of Twinkies, which is kind of weird but not why this video is iconic. Rather than blowing out the candles simultaneously, Romney plucked the lit candles out of the cake and blew them out one by one, either because he didn’t want to spread his germs on the communal dessert or because he was unfamiliar with this earthling ritual.

The time he pretended to be ‘Pierre Delecto.’

In October 2019 journalists discovered Romney had a secret Twitter account under the name “Pierre Delecto.” When asked about the account he said “C’est moi,” proving he’d learned nothing about the dangers of speaking French while Republican.

The time his soul left his body as he dined with Trump.

Though he had recently called Trump a “fraud” and suggested that he should be denied the Republican presidential nomination, in November 2016 Romney humiliated himself by publicly auditioning to be Trump’s secretary of State. Romney didn’t get the gig, and his career low was immortalized in this iconic photo of him wincing while dining with a devilish Trump at Jean-Georges.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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Mitt Romney’s Most Delightfully Awkward Moments