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Romney defends MLK march remark

From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann
Ft DODGE, IA -- Romney says that it depends on what the definition of "saw" is.

A defensive Romney was peppered with questions today on exactly what he meant when he said -- most recently on Meet the Press -- that he "saw" his father march with Martin Luther King Jr. Recent articles have indicated that his father, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, didn't march with the civil-rights leader.

Admitting that he didn't see the march with his own eyes, he said, "I 'saw' him in the figurative sense."

"The reference of seeing my father lead in civil rights," he said, "and seeing my father march with Martin Luther King is in the sense of this figurative awareness of and recognition of his leadership."

"I've tried to be as accurate as I can be," he continued, smiling firmly. "If you look at the literature or look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of -- in the sense I've described."

The questioning did not relent. "I'm an English literature major," he insisted at one point. "When we say I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn't necessarily mean you were there." (He meant the Super Bowl, of course.)

The back-and-forth continued to go south for Romney, who had intended for the story of the day to be about his slams on Mike Huckabee for easing penalties for meth users. Romney had to correct an earlier statement that he had himself "gotten tough on methamphetamine" (His proposed legislation as governor never made it through the Massachusetts House.)

"I'm making sure that that's correct as quickly as I possibly can," he said. "If there's any confusion there I'm sorry for any confusion."

Romney was increasingly exasperated with the questioning, especially when a reporter tied in these instances of word-parsing with the governor's past missteps on the trail -- such as his suggestion that he was endorsed by the NRA.

"Again, you can decide to hyper-analyze a word and try and create an impression that would not be accurate," he responded. "Frankly, I didn't realize that the NRA had an official endorsement program that was different than them phone-banking for me."

'I didn't apply for that, wasn't aware of it," he added.

Romney added with a weary smile that he knows that his words will be scrutinized, and that he's "up for it."

"If now and then I miss a word or I get something slightly wrong, I'll correct it, acknowledge what's wrong. But the overall thrust, the overall meaning of the story is very accurate."