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Romney says 'fire people' remark taken out of context

HUDSON, NH -- With an-off-the-cuff comment about liking "being able to fire people who provide services to me" ricocheting around the internet -- and with at least one GOP rival using it to brand the former Massachusetts governor as "out of touch" -- Mitt Romney held a rare press avail this afternoon to say the remark had been taken out of context.

"I was talking about insurance companies. Yeah, we like to be able to get rid of insurance companies that don’t give us the insurance we need. I don’t want to have to live in a world where we have Obamacare telling us which insurance we have to have, which doctor we can have, which hospital we go to," Romney said. "I believe in a setting as I described this morning where people are able to choose their own doctor choose their own insurance company. If they don’t like their insurance company or their provider, they get rid of them. That’s the way America works."

While speaking to a group of business leaders at a breakfast in Nashua this morning, Romney was asked a question about how he would replace Obamacare. He responded, in part:

"I want individuals to have their own insurance that means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy; it also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me a good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me."

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has risen to third place in some recent polls out of New Hampshire and has long made Romney a target of his jabs from the stump, weighed in hours later at his own press avail.

"Gov. Romney enjoys firing people; I enjoy creating jobs," Huntsman said.

Later, Huntsman's campaign looked to further capitalize on the moment, emailing a statement to reporters.

"Today, Mitt Romney reminded voters why he's one of the weakest front-runners in presidential history. 'I like being able to fire people' doesn't exactly scream electability," Huntsman senior strategist John Weaver said in a statement. "Voters are looking for someone they can trust. That's Jon Huntsman, not Mitt Romney."

Also today, the Rick Perry campaign offered on its website a downloadable ring tone repeating "I like being able to fire people."

At his own press conference, Romney said rivals taking comments out of context simply "comes with the territory."

"You know the context of what I was saying, which was we all like to be able to choose our own insurance company. And if they don’t do the job for us being able to get rid of them and that’s what I was referring to," Romney said. "I understand in politics people can decide to grasp at anything and take it out of context and make it something it’s not. That’s the nature of the process. I’ve got to be an adult about it and recognize it comes with the territory."

Later in the day, Romney's campaign released a memo to reporters, saying: "Our opponents are taking Gov. Romney’s comments completely out of context. Gov. Romney was talking about firing insurance companies if you don’t like their service. That is something that most Americans agree with."