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Hitting back at Mitt Romney, British prime minister calls Utah 'middle of nowhere' (+video)

Published: Thursday, July 26 2012 4:34 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks out of 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London, Thursday, July 26, 2012.  (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks out of 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London, Thursday, July 26, 2012. (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press)

Mitt Romney offended British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday, and Cameron in turn responded by bashing Utah.

The controversy started when Romney spoke bluntly about the upcoming 2012 London Olympics. "You know it's hard to know just how well it will turn out," he said in an interview with NBC News. "There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials — that obviously is not something which is encouraging."

Cameron’s comeback referenced the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics that Romney helmed. "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world,” the prime minister said. “Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

British publication The Telegraph’s Alex Spillius responded to Romney’s comments with an op-ed piece that included a healthy dose of self-pity. “I have listened to Mitt Romney's stump speech countless times. A standard refrain is to run down Europe — not a hard case to make at the moment — and that includes us. Not once have I heard him praise Britain or extol the special relationship he now belatedly trumpets.”

Los Angeles Times columnist Jon Healey defended Romney’s right to speak his mind about the London Olympics: “Everything he said was true … and as the former head of the committee that staged the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney is uniquely qualified to comment on whether London is up to the challenge that the host city of an Olympics faces. So why shouldn't he say what he thinks?”

The Salt Lake City mayor’s office lobbed some verbal barbs. Per BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins, a spokesman for Mayor Ralph Becker said, “We'd welcome the opportunity to share all that we enjoy here with the (prime minister), including a great number of assets that you'd be hard-pressed to find in London-world-class outdoor recreation, an economy that has prospered even through the recent economic recession, one of the best-educated populations in the world and a rare sense of community and commitment to progressive evolution. We also hosted the most successful Olympics Winter Games, ever. …

“(Cameron) can stop by any time. We'd love to have him and are happy to send a map so he doesn't run into any trouble locating the middle of nowhere."

Romney and Cameron met Thursday, and after the two men spoke Romney tempered his previous comments.

“After meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron at his Downing Street residence,” the Associated Press reported, “the Republican told reporters he expects the games ‘to be highly successful.’ He said he and Cameron talked about the ‘great progress’ that has been made in the games, which have been criticized for security woes and organization.”

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