CNN's Soledad O'Brien badgers Romney backer, implies GOP nominee 'lying'

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, in accusing Mitt Romney of stretching the truth, appeared to stretch the definition of lying -- suggesting the Republican presidential nominee was dishonest because he walked back a controversial remark.

On Friday’s edition of “Starting Point,” O’Brien grilled Romney surrogate Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga. She was talking about Romney’s subsequent disavowing of a secretly recorded tape made in May in which he said 47 percent of the country is dependent on the government safety net and thus unlikely to vote for him.


"So, to me, that is you say one thing for a certain audience to get them to support you and then you say something different, maybe completely contradictory, to another audience which some could define as lying," O'Brien said on the segment, which was flagged by Newsbusters.

The interview came two days after a debate in which the general consensus was that Romney did well and President Obama turned in a lackluster performance. The day after the mano a mano, Obama took to the stump to suggest the real Romney was the one caught on the tape, not the one who turned in a strong debate performance.

O'Brien used a clip of post-debate Obama blasting Romney for claiming to be a champion of the middle class, saying "doesn't (Obama) have a point there as he was on the campaign trail, that he (Romney) was dancing around and this is now a flip from what he said very -- you know -- specifically and concretely before?"

Romney first said that his “47 percent” statement was “inelegant,” then later called it “just plain wrong.” O’Brien prodded Gingrey, opining that only Romney’s first response to the comment is credible and that his more fulsome repudiation was “politically expedient.”

The parsing of Romney’s initial statement and the refusal to allow him to disavow it is in contrast to O’Brien’s handling of statements Obama would likely prefer to brush aside. A 1998 tape of Obama telling a Loyola University audience “I actually believe in redistribution,” or another tape from 2007 in which he appeared to imply that the federal government didn’t rush to help victims of Hurricane Katrina because they were black have both surfaced in recent days.

O’Brien’s only interest in the 2007 tape was to ask Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, "Who do you think is responsible” for putting it out?