The Story That Continues to Dog Romney

Friday, January 13, 2012


In 1983, Mitt Romney took his family on a road trip from Boston to Canada, with the family dog Seamus strapped to the roof of the car. Almost 5 years ago, the Seamus story made it into a Boston Globe story, and to this day, the anecdote of Seamus the dog continues to haunt Romney.  Bob speaks to Boston Globe Magazine writer Neil Swidey, the person to first dig up the Seamus story.

The Dodos - Companions

Comments [19]

In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Mr. and Mrs. Romney implied Seamus rode strapped to the roof on several trips. Where is the empathy and common sense of these people? They explain the vomit and feces by saying the dog ate turkey before the trip. If that's the case why wouldn't they keep the dog in the car and make stops to accommodate him instead of exacerbating his condition by sticking him on the roof? Imagine how terrifying it is for an animal to be crated on a vehicle roof going 60 mph on two lane highways with semi-trailers passing it by.

No matter how they explain it there's NO excuse for making the dog ride in a crate on the roof when the luggage could have been strapped to the luggage rack to make room for the dog in the car. They simply didn't want the dog in the car.

Sep. 10 2012 12:22 PM

The Romney dog story is a bad joke on the 99%. And I love dogs.

Mitt (running Bain) bought productive companies, borrowed big time, looted their pension plans, made huge returns, while many companies ended up bankrupt, the workers lost their jobs, their pensions, and their guaranteed (by contract with the corp.) retirement health care. And the pension got bailed out by PBGC (government sponsored and funded in last resort).

Does the privatization of gains and socialization of losses theme sound familiar?

Reading the above article requires sentience and numeracy, so it's not for everybody, especially those who value a "telling character anecdote" over "big money screws working people".

To people talking about dogs and "character" and "authenticity": please read the Reuters article and think about something besides a journalistic meta narrative.

The Boston Globe narrative-producer-in-chief spoke about the mystery of a private equity firm, instead of actually investigating it! Maybe there were too many numbers in the Reuters piece for him. Short version: Bain invested 8 M, got 24.5 M, workers got screwed, govt covered the part of the loss. Sorry for the lack of brown fluid.

Jan. 20 2012 12:48 AM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

Bob Kerrey is considering running for the Senate seat that will be open this year from Nebraska. Kerrey confessed a few years ago to participating in a war atrocity in Vietnam perpetrated by troops under his command. I wonder if Gail Collins or other robo-Dems in the mainstream media will recall this incident, by way of perspective, and infer large lessons about Kerrey's character and the 'narrative' into which journalists are so fond of creating and then stuffing reality, then extrapolating about Kerrey's political party, etc. If the issue is raised, will CJR then write about the 'story that continues to dog Kerrey'? Ask me another. The incident did not prevent Kerrey's elevation to the presidency of the New School. The Kerrey/Vietnam atrocity story is already down the media memory hole, like Obama's coke use.

Jan. 18 2012 12:36 PM
Audrey A from Walla Walla, WA

So many things trouble me about this story, but please, Neil, tell me how you know that Mitt took care of his dog “coolly” with an “absence of emotion”? There is no way to know that Mitt was cool or unemotional when he cleaned up after his dog. That’s where the reporter’s bias crept into the story. How’s this for a revision, “Mitt did the best he could to clean both the dog and the carrier. He made sure the dog was as comfortable as he could be under the circumstances. After all, with the car full of kids and their gear, there was no room in the car, and being far from home at that point, no option other than to continue the trip with the dog, safe, clean, and hopefully feeling a little better, in his carrier.” You people who are so aghast at this--do you honestly think he did this out of mean-spiritedness? He took the dog because, like most of us, he figured the dog would be happier with the family on the vacation. He tried to make the dog comfortable with a wind barrier. His plan did not work as he expected, but these are not the actions of a cold, callous, animal abuser, they are the actions of a dad going on vacation with his wife, the kids, and the dog. Apparently a Republican can’t even do that anymore without facing withering criticism.

Jan. 18 2012 11:36 AM
Potomacker from Nanjing, Jiangsu, PRC

I want to know why of all the inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated story memes that have become accepted as true in the public discourse, this story among the 100s that exist merits OTM's attention. Is it so necessary for OTM to correct a misperception of Mitt Romney's recounting of his own personal 'hardships' when the Romney campaign gleefully perpetuates distortions about their political opponents?

Jan. 17 2012 10:22 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Since everyone calling focused on Mitt and his creatures, who cares about his tax return? Taking even Christie, his "biggest" supporter, at his word today, he's already planning a run in 4 years (he'll be more 'ready then') so either he expects Mitt to lose or his Presidency will be such a failure that Chris will be a successful primary challenger. There will be feces!

Jan. 17 2012 06:02 PM

I'll never understand why people drop links from Newsbusters on this page. If I wanted to read Newsbusters, I would.

As for Romney, you either care about the fact he did this or you don't. I do.

Jan. 17 2012 02:43 PM

NewsBusters: NPR Host Smears Romney As 'Michael Vick of Presidential Candidates'

Jan. 15 2012 11:54 PM
Christopher Boulton from Amherst, MA

Interesting story, but I had a different reaction to dog-gate. Given Romney's infamous fortune, I found it charming that, at least once in his life, he had to schlep it up to Canada by car. And, like a typical Dad, he bungled the packing.

Jan. 15 2012 02:02 PM
Beth Peterson

I am really disappointed with the cavalier and joking manner Romney's "anecdote" of animal cruelty was treated with. Both Bob and Swidey were dismissive of the outcry this story generated and appeared to have a hard time not chuckling throughout the story. Animal cruelty is a real problem in this country and treating it lightly is reprehensible. How this incident should be treated relative to the farcical nature of media coverage of electoral politics is separate from the fact that this action by Romney shows a profound lack of respect for life.

Jan. 15 2012 12:07 PM

I was surprised and saddened by Bob Garfield and his guest's startling lack of compassion towards the animal in this story throughout this interview. Bob's dismissal of this act of clear animal abuse as a "pet anecdote" and even chuckling over whether this "anecdote" "matters" 30 years later was appalling. A "pet anecdote" is a cute story about a dog stealing food off the dinner table. What Mitt Romney did was an inexcusable act of abuse, and it hardly matters whether it happened 30 years ago or yesterday (would you say to an adult who was abused as a child - 'oh what does it matter, that was 30 years ago?').

I was further disgusted by the way in which the dog's distress was minimized and made fun of in this piece, with both Bob Garfield and Neil Swidey focusing on the "ridiculous rumors" instead of the stark cruelty of what actually did happen. Are both of these men unaware of the amount of distress a dog has to be in to become incontinent? By their tone, you would have thought they were talking about a jolly misunderstanding.

A baseline level of compassion for living creatures is in fact a relevant attribute for those seeking highest office, and I would like to think that any one seeking to govern the lives of millions of living creatures (that's us) would exhibit the ability to identify and help heal distress. On The Media's mocking approach to this very troubling story seemed to miss the boat entirely.

Jan. 15 2012 12:02 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus OH

This 'story' took place around the time Barack Obama was snorting cocaine while living in NY, if I recall timelines correctly. The AP put 11 reporters to work fact-checking Sarah Palin's memoir, producing a solemn, unintentionally hilarious critique, but can't find the resources to look into the details of the President's past behavor, as portrayed in his two memoirs. Now Romney is getting the well-known double-standard treatment. Missteps and bad behavior by the favorites of the urban trendies are isolated mistakes, but similar tics by their political and cultural hate-figures are metaphors for their characters, their political parties, and sometimes entire philosophies, 'Animal House' style.

Jan. 15 2012 09:39 AM
Dan Palmer from Troy, NY

Dear OTM,

I wonder if the host of this segment is a Romney fan and/or has never had a dog he liked very much.

He spoke about the dog carrier as if it was a custom built carrier for car rooftops and that this misunderstanding is the root of the story's staying power.


Try doing some research (like a Google shopping search) and you'll find that there is NO SUCH THING AS A "ROOFTOP DOG CARRIER!"
Never was.


Because it is CRUEL to put an animal on the roof of a car for HOURS with the wind blowing around that "fancy windshield" and the noises and shaking the dog must have had to deal with.
The "windshield" was a piece of plastic Romney affixed to the front of the carrier.

Ever ride in the back of a drop top Jeep on the highway?
Well, you know how the dog felt...except he had no choice in the matter.

Jan. 14 2012 02:31 PM
Kevin McKague from Davison, Michigan

Wow, "listener", that was quite a stretch.

I'm in agreement with many of the other people who cite this story; you can tell a lot about a person by the way he treats his pets. I wasn't likely to ever vote for Romney anyways, but it's fair to judge his character with stories like these.

Jan. 14 2012 09:14 AM
Rick Evans from Massachusetts

Romney's treating his dog like a piece of luggage instead of a living creature tells me as much about his emotional emptiness than any of his capital uber alles wealth creation or his stiff attempts to put emotions in his stump speeches.

If his car wasn't big enough to accommodate the family and dog then how about renting a bigger car. He could easily afford it.

The dog story shouldn't be looked at in isolation. In and out of context the glee in his voice when he stated "I like firing people ..." tells me something different from if he said "I like being able to switch insurance companies ..."

I don't doubt Romney loves his family, kids and church. Outside of that he comes across as having the empathy of a cardboard replica.

Jan. 14 2012 08:40 AM
marty from Lansing, MI

I'd heard this story during the 2008 presidential race. I think it was the wrong thing for Romney to do, but I also know that we all do wrong things from time to time. As we get older--and, hopefully, wiser--we recognize that fact. What bothers me most about this story (other than feeling sorry for the dog in retrospect) is the fact that the Romneys still speak of it as a fine example of Romney's pragmatism and ability (compulsion?) to plan to the nth degree. Doing something stupid and callous is one thing. Not recognizing it as such decades later? That's something else entirely.

Personally, I think Romney should have been the one who spent the trip strapped to the roof of the car.

Jan. 14 2012 07:32 AM

Pardon me - last line should say "than."
Thank you.

Jan. 14 2012 06:20 AM

Missing the point by a mile we have the very first comment.
A creature was in obvious distress. The manner in which he who would be our leader disregarded another creature's distress for his own convenience is the issue.
Claiming bias in this case is simple and sad. May the creatures in your life be met with more compassion that Seamus was in this instance.

Jan. 14 2012 06:19 AM

The real question is why the media's sardonic fascination with Seamus's "brown liquid coming down the back wind shield" thirty years ago on the Romney family trip but respectful disinterest and lack of derision of the "brown liquid" flowing from the Occupy protest sites very recently along with other human effluvia?
The "narrative" is what a biased media creates by regularly highlighting or ignoring whatever their partisan agenda requires and then innocently wondering aloud why it has become a "narrative".

Jan. 13 2012 09:45 PM

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