The wife of former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is upset about the lack of reaction to Democrat Vincent Sheheen accidentally using an offensive word last week when talking about Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
“It hit me right in my gut,” Ann Romney told CNN. “My nerve endings went haywire. It’s so upsetting when you know someone can say something like that about a woman, and not have any kind of reaction. It’s so unacceptable. Nikki is a great girl and has been a great governor.”
Haley endorsed and campaigned for Mitt Romney during the 2012 S.C. GOP presidential primary. She also spoke at the Republican National Convention when the former Massachusetts governor was nominated.
Sheheen, a state senator from Camden and the Democratic nominee for governor, was speaking in Florence on Thursday when he made his verbal slip.
“We are going to escort whore out the door,” Sheheen said in a video posted by the (Florence) Morning News.
Sheheen immediately corrected himself: “We’re going to escort her out the door.”
The crowd laughed and Sheheen grinned. (Watch the video)
Sheheen apologized Monday on a Charleston radio show, though he and his backers say he did not use the offensive word.
“But if anybody heard, and certainly my words were garbled … I apologize because I don’t want to send that message to anybody,” the senator said.
Ann Romney told CNN that she spoke to Haley about Sheheen’s verbal mishap. She said reaction to Sheheen’s remark would be different if the political parties of those involved were reversed.
“If a Republican had said this, it would be blowing up in their face like nobody’s business,” Ann Romney said in the interview. “Where is Emily’s List? Where is N.O.W.? Where are they?”
Sheheen told The State on Tuesday that, while speaking several times a day, his “words get garbled often. ... I did what I think any person who garbled their words does – you correct yourself and make clear what you’re saying.”
Asked whether he would change anything about his reaction if he had the chance, Sheheen said, “I don’t have a time machine, so I don’t go back and second guess what’s going on.”
Sheheen said the concern is misplaced.
“If I had a time machine, I would go save children at the Department of Social Services who died because Nikki Haley was covering up what happened,” Sheheen continued. “It’s amazing that people want to talk about the mispronunciation of a word when literally kids are being killed and murdered.”
Sheheen has made turmoil at the state’s child-welfare agency – one of Haley’s cabinet agencies – central to his campaign.
Sheheen allies say the Haley camp is creating a controversy out of an unintentional incident.
“Sen. Sheheen garbled his words, and he has already apologized for it,” S.C. Democratic Party spokeswoman Kristin Sosanie said. “He’s focused on talking about his vision for the future of South Carolina, while the other side continues to manufacture outrage.”
Polls have Haley leading Sheheen by double-digit margins in their rematch of their 2010 race, which the Republican won by 4.5 percentage points.