Mitt Romney will not condemn Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) for his comments in April alleging that "about 78 to 81" Democratic members of Congress are members of the Communist Party, top Romney adviser Eric Ferhnstrom told CNN on Thursday.
"This election isn't about what Allen West said," Fehrnstrom said during an interview with Wolf Blitzer. "This election is about 23 million Americans who are either out of work or underemployed." But despite Ferhnstrom's attempts to steer the conversation toward the economy, Blitzer continued to press him further on why Romney will not condemn West's statement. Fehnrstrom responded that while the Republican presidential candidate "doesn't agree with the sentiment expressed by Allen West", the Romney campaign is not going to get "bogged down by what other people are saying."
West's remarks have been criticized across the board by Democrats, but former president Bill Clinton pointed out at a fundraiser earlier this week that "neither the Republican nominee nor other Republican leaders rebuked [West] for saying that."
Read the full transcript below:
BLITZER: You also heard President Clinton really express his frustration and irritation that Mitt Romney, and other top Republicans, have not condemned Congressman Allen West for saying flatly that there are 78 to 81 members of the Communist Party among the House Democrats. Why is Romney silent on that?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, that's not a point of view that's shared by Governor Romney, I can tell you that. But look, this election isn't about what Allen West said. This election is about 23 million Americans who are either out of work or underemployed.
BLITZER: Bill Clinton says what Allen West is saying about these Democrats and that they're communists, these are echoes from Joe McCarthy from the '50s and he would hope that Mitt Romney would flatly condemn these comments. Do you think that the Republican presidential nominee is ready to do so?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, again Wolf, our focus at the Romney campaign is on the economy -- like a laser. That is what the governor is most concerned about. It's what compelled him to get into the race in the first place. He doesn't agree with the sentiment expressed by Allen West, but we're not going to get bogged down by what other people are saying.