Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke to the Values Voter Summit via video Friday, reiterating his idea "culture matters" to poverty and prosperity, a remark he received condemnation for when he used it during a trip to Israel this summer.
"In short, culture matters and as president I will protect our culture and protect the values of hard work, personal responsibility, family and faith," Romney said after mentioning a Brookings Institution study on poverty.
The December 2011 study showed young adults who finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 before getting married and having children had a 2 percent chance of winding up in poverty and a 74 percent chance of winding up in the middle class.
On the other hand, those who did not do these three things had a 76 percent chance of winding up in poverty and a 7 percent chance of winding up in the middle class.
The remark was reminiscent of one he made while on a trip to Israel in June of this year. There, Romney remarked on the different in GDP between Israeli areas and Palestinian ones and tied the difference to "culture."
"You see the [GDP] per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita," Romney said in Jerusalem.
"Culture makes all the difference...And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," he then added.
The remarks drew tough criticism from Middle East scholars and Arab leaders, who said it was akin to equating poverty with Arab culture.
"All I can say is that this man needs a lot of education. He doesn't know the region, he doesn't know Israelis, he doesn't know Palestinians, and to talk about the Palestinians as an inferior culture is really a racist statement," Saeb Erekat, a former peace envoy for the Palestinian Authority, said at the time.
Although Friday's remark did not tie a specific ethnic or racial group to poverty, it did seem to be tying a specific cultural heritage to prosperity.
The heritage to which Romney seemed to be referring was the same to which he was campaigning Friday, namely, religious conservatives on the Republican party's right flank.
In the video message, Romney ensured he and running mate Paul Ryan would support freedom of religion in the "public square" and work to rebuild an America based on "strong communities and strong families."
The message, previously unannounced by summit organizers, was a surprise addition for delegates attending the event. The summit was held in Washington, DC Friday and Saturday.
It was co-hosted by the American Family Association and Family Research Council, both conservative Christian organizations who champion a Biblical interpretation of the family and marriage and a Christian worldview.
Ryan spoke at the summit Friday, as did Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky. and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and former presidential candidate Senator Rick Santorum spoke Saturday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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