Romney confuses "Sikh" with "sheikh"

Republican candidate misspeaks in tribute to Wisconsin temple shooting victims.

In a competitive field, this may be Mitt Romney's worst gaffe yet. Discussing the Wisconsin shooting last night, the Republican presidential candidate twice mistakenly used the word "sheikh", denoting an Arab leader, rather than "Sikh", the religion of the victims.

Speaking at a fundraising event in West Des Moines, he said:

I was in Chicago earlier today. We had a moment of silence in honor of the people who lost their lives at that sheikh temple. I noted that it was a tragedy for many, many reasons. Among them are the fact that people, the sheikh people are among the most peaceable and loving individuals you can imagine, as is their faith.

Asked later about the slip, Romney spokesman Rick Gorka explained: "He misspoke. It was the end of the day. 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."

Fortunately for Romney, his linguistic shortcomings didn't prevent him raising $1.8m dollars in the "most successful presidential fundraiser we have ever had in the history of the state of Iowa."

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.