Top Romney surrogate John Sununu suggested Thursday night that Colin Powell endorsed President Barack Obama in part because the two men are the same race.
Sununu, who served as governor of New Hampshire from 1983 to 1989, made the comment during an appearance on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight." Morgan asked Sununu whether Powell's endorsement of Obama, after having also thrown his support behind the president in 2008, meant the former four-star general should end his membership in the Republican Party.
The exchange that followed:
Sununu: Well, I'm not sure how important that is. I do like the fact that Colin Powell's boss, George Herbert Walker Bush, has endorsed Mitt Romney all along. And frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.
Morgan: What reason would that be?
Sununu: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.
This isn't the first time Powell has been accused of an endorsement based on race. In 2008, Rush Limbaugh, among others, insinuated that Powell's endorsement of Obama was motivated by skin color.
The former general announced his endorsement Thursday on CBS' "This Morning," praising Obama's leadership under difficult circumstances, while at the same time criticizing Mitt Romney's domestic and foreign policy plans.
UPDATE: Hours after the CNN interview, John Sununu issued a statement about his earlier comments, Politico reported.
"Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president’s policies. Piers Morgan’s question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don’t think he should," Sununu said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sununu was a former governor of Massachusetts. He's a former governor of New Hampshire.