WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that the press is too focused on "a joke" that President Barack Obama made Tuesday about Mitt Romney's late dog.
During a campaign event in Iowa, Obama criticized Romney for saying in March, "You can't drive a car with a windmill on it." Obama's speech was largely centered on the state's potential for creating jobs via wind energy, but he found a way to work in a reference to the dog, an Irish Setter named Seamus.
"You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it," Obama said. “I don’t know if [Romney] actually tried that. I know he’s had other things on his car."
Obama was referring to a Romney family trip to Canada in 1983, during which Seamus rode in a crate on top of the car for the 12-hour drive. The family told the Boston Globe in 2007 that Romney had planned only to stop for gas, but when Seamus suffered a bout of diarrhea that streamed down the car windows, Romney had to pull over to hose off the car and dog. Then he kept driving.
Carney said Obama's reference to the dog was just "a joke," and pointed out that the president had only alluded to Seamus once amid three different speeches that day.
"Just like the Romney campaign and others have joked about the fact that, in the president's memoir, he talked about as a boy eating dog meat in Indonesia because that is something that's done there," he said. "I think a little levity is a lot different from the kind of ridiculous charges that are being made" on the campaign trail.
Carney went on to chide reporters for writing about the president's Seamus reference when the focus of his speech was the "substantive policy issue" that is renewable energy.
"One joke as an aside should not become the focus of the campaign or the coverage of the campaign," he said. "Maybe I am naive to think that a one-line joke about a dog would not have been the principal focus of the coverage of the president for the day."