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Mitt Romney’s Anti-Italian Racism Obscured By Jeep Lie

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is so desperate to escape his disastrous record on the auto rescue, which is destroying his chances in all-important Ohio, that he’s willing to do… well, pretty much what he always does, which is to tell ostentatious lies about it. He dropped a whopper on the campaign trail last week, falsely claiming that Jeep was “moving all production to China,” which is complete crap. Romney, of course, then built an ad campaign around this clear lie, and is being rightly called out on it, but in the confusion, his Mad Men-era contempt for “the Italians” has been completely overlooked.

In his remarks to an Ohio crowd last Thursday, Romney said “I saw a story today,” a great place to start if you want your next Commander-in-Chief to get his news from random internet blogs. “One of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.”

As every leading newspaper in Ohio has now pointed out, this is a lie. That is rightly the focus of every journalist with a more than passing concern with the facts, but it also seemed peculiar that he said “now owned by the Italians,” instead of “an Italian company,” or “Italy-based Fiat,” or something else less contemptuous. Fiat does have a 61.8% stake in Chrysler, increased from its initial 20% holding, but it’s not owned by “the Italians.”

At the very least, it was a subtle dig at a people who are not American, not a company based in a foreign country. Deliberate? Maybe not, maybe Mitt Romney’s view of the Eye-ties, like his view of everything else, is stuck in the late fifties, and it just slipped out.

Except that when Romney turned his lie into a full-fledged campaign ad, it included a line which accused President Obama of having “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”

Again, not to “an Italian company,” or to a “company based in Italy,” but “to Italians.”

Rachel Maddow handily packaged both clips on Monday night’s show:

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This isn’t at all subtle. The Romney campaign long ago kicked the Republican strategy of appealing to resentful white people into warp drive, and this is that strategy eating itself: an appeal to white people who even resent other white people. His contempt, however, extends even to them, as he expects them to swallow what the entire world knows is a lie. Jeep is adding jobs in Ohio, and would not exist at all if Romney had gotten his way. Now, Ohio voters know what Mitt Romney thinks of them, Italian or not.

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