Mitt Romney’s quest to boost conservative enthusiasm for his campaign reached the far-right edge of the GOP Wednesday, when Romney leaned hard into two conspiracy theories on the United Nations during an Ohio town tall.
An audience member asked Romney about the U.N.’s plan to “backdoor and tear down our freedoms.” Romney’s offered a tepid defense of the international body, while also giving a wink and a nod toward some of the edgier American conspiracy theories on the organization.
Romney said he does not believe — as some Republicans have in the past — that the U.S. should pull out of the U.N. (though plenty of audience members cheered at the suggestion). He praised the organization’s work in nuclear non-proliferation and said there is value in nations having a forum to speak to one another.
“I know that there are some who I, I fully believe would say, ‘Just let’s get out of the U.N.,’ I know there are many people who feel that,” Romney said to applause. “But I actually, I actually think you need to have a place to talk to other people even if you know they’re lying. So you can at least, at least, at least you can hear what they have to say and sort of get what their propaganda is.”
In recent years, U.N. conspiracy theories have centered on the idea that the organization is trying to take away Americans’ rights — including the rights to bear arms, own property and raise kids the way parents see fit.
The ascendance of the tea party has brought with it a new focus on U.N. conspiracies within the GOP. Just this week, tea party-leaning senators killed a U.N. treaty supported by big names in Republican diplomacy out of fear that it would give away sovereignty.
As he so often does, Romney had to negotiate between the establishment GOP and the tea party in providing a suitable answer on the U.N.
“There are some things that are good [about the U.N.],” Romney said. “There are a lot of things that are not good.”
Among the not-good things, he gave a subtle nod are a laundry list of fringe conspiracies:
“Turning to the United Nations to tell us how to raise our kids, or whether we can have the Second Amendment rights that our Constitution gave us, I mean these, that is the wrong way to go, all right. Do not cede sovereignty, I’m happy to talk to people there, I’m not willing to give American sovereignty in any way shape or form to the United Nations or any other body, we are a free nation, we fought for freedom and independence, we’re going to keep freedom and independence.”
The exchange shows that as Romney tries to focus on the economy, even conservative members of his own party will be there to throw him off track.