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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In Slip, Romney Refers to \'Sheik Temple\' Tragedy


DES MOINES - In extending condolences for the Wisconsin shooting, Mitt Romney mistakenly referred to the victims gunned down at a “sheik” temple, twice using the Arabic term for a respected leader to refer to the Sikh religion, a non-Muslim faith.

“We obviously have challenges around the country,'' Mr. Romney said on Tuesday evening, according to a transcript by a press representative attending a fund-raising event in West Des Moines. “I was in Chicago earlier today. We had a moment of silence in honor of the people who lost their lives at that sheik temple. I noted that it was a tragedy for many, many reasons. Among them are the fact that people, the sheik people are among the most peaceable and loving individuals you can imagine, as is their faith.''

After the speech, at the Glen Oaks Country Club, a Romney spokesman, Rick Gorka, was asked about the slip.

“He misspoke,” Mr. Gorka said. “It was the end of the day.”

He added: “He mispronounced similar sounding words. He was clearly referring to the tragedy in Wisconsin. You clearly heard him talk about it earlier today in Chicago.”

At that earlier appearance, Mr. Romney asked for a silent moment in honor of six worshipers killed on Sunday in Oak Creek, Wisc. by a gunman who was then shot to death by police.

The gunman, Wade M. Page, was associated with white supremacist groups and lead a white-power band.

Sikh groups report a rise in hate crimes and discrimination since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They say they are often mistaken for Muslims, because Sikh men wear turbans and keep their beards long. Sikhism originated in South Asia, not the Middle East.

Mr. Romney's slip of the tongue came a week after remarks he made in Israel about cultural differences between Israelis and Palestinians were attacked by a Palestinian official as racis t.

Earlier on Tuesday, he had no trouble naming the shooting victims. He referred to “the tragic, tragic shooting at the Sikh temple'' during a campaign stop outside Chicago, adding “that tragedy is even more profound because the Sikh religion and the Sikh people are such peaceful, loving individuals.''