In an interview with Mitt Romney in London on Wednesday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams grilled the Republican candidate about releasing more tax returns: "People hear he's not going to release the rest of his returns and they wonder why. They wonder, is there a year there where he paid no taxes? They wonder about expensive horses and houses....what is it that is preventing you from releasing the rest of your returns?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In another question designed to portray Romney as secretive, Williams quoted New York Times columnist David Brooks exclaiming: "[Romney] has an amazing personal story....He can't talk about it because it involves Mormonism. He is personally a decent guy. For some reason he's not willing to talk about it. He's a hidden man." Williams fretted: "Are you a hidden man?"
In contrast, when then-candidate Barack Obama traveled overseas in the summer of 2008, Williams sounded like an adoring fan as he gushed over the Democratic Senator's speech in Berlin: "When an American politician comes to Berlin, we've had some iconic utterances in the past. We've had 'ich bin ein.' We've had 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' Is the phraseology that you would like remembered, 'people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time'?"
On Wednesday, Williams wrapped up his interview with Romney by asking about potential vice presidential picks in the most obnoxious way possible: "So here's a Republican official familiar with your campaign selection process, told the folks at Politico you are looking for a, quote, 'incredibly boring white guy' for your vice presidential nominee. Can you confirm or deny?" Romney quipped back: "You told me you were not available." Williams replied: "Touche, Governor."
Here is a full transcript of the July 26 interview:
7:00PM ET TEASE:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: An NBC News exclusive. Here in London today, our conversation with Mitt Romney about gun rights, religion, taxes and whether American voters really truly know who he is.
7:04PM ET SEGMENT:
WILLIAMS: And now back here in London, our conversation today with Mitt Romney. He flew overnight from Reno, Nevada. From here his trip goes on to Israel and Poland. And in conjunction, with the games gearing up, it gave us an opportunity to talk with him today in one of the historic old buildings in the Tower Bridge complex. And we started by talking about the issues raised by this mass murder in Colorado, about gun violence in the U.S.
I want to ask you about the compelling news back home, and that's from Aurora, Colorado, where we were on Friday. And this is about your own record vis-a-vis what happened here. As governor you signed an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts. And you said at the time, quote, "These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people." Do you still believe that?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I actually signed a piece of legislation, as you described, that banned assault weapons in our state. It was a continuation of prior legislation. And it was backed both by the Second Amendment advocates like myself, and those that wanted to restrict gun rights, because it was a compromise. Both sides got some things improved in the laws as they existed. And I happen to think that with regards to the Aurora, Colorado disaster, we're wise to continue the time of memorial and think of comforting the people affected. And political implications, legal implications are something which will be sorted out down the road. But I don't happen to believe America needs new gun laws. A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening.
WILLIAMS: On to another topic, and that is your taxes. Can you say that your decision is firm, that you'll not do a walk-back between now and the convention, now and the fall election, that there will be no returns – more returns released by Mitt Romney?
ROMNEY: I'm following the same precedent that was put in place by John McCain. Two years. And by the way, hundreds of pages of returns for the Democrat operatives to go through and twist and distort and to turn into different directions and try and make a big deal out of. But you know, the American people are not real concerned about tax returns. They're concerned about who can get this economy going and create good jobs again, and I can. The President hasn't been able to do the job as he had expected to do and I know how to get it done.
WILLIAMS: But you also know what happens in the real world, Governor. People hear he's not going to release the rest of his returns and they wonder why. They wonder, is there a year there where he paid no taxes? They wonder about expensive horses and houses and what have you. So I'll ask another way, what is it that is preventing you from releasing the rest of your returns?
ROMNEY: Well, one, I've released all the information about my financial holdings. That's required by law. And then in addition, beyond the law, have released, or will finally release actually when the last year is complete, two years of full returns.
WILLIAMS: I want to read this. This happened on Meet the Press on NBC, this is David Brooks, op-ed columnist, New York Times. And I want to get your reaction to this quote. "What's relevant is who the guy is," speaking of Governor Romney, "he has an amazing personal story. His family was really an exodus story going across the west, poverty, building an empire. He can't talk about it because it involves Mormonism. He is personally a decent guy. For some reason he's not willing to talk about it. He's a hidden man." Are you a hidden man?
ROMNEY: Well, no. And as a matter of fact, I'm happy to talk about my heritage. I speak, actually, quite regularly about the fact that my dad was born in Mexico, with revolution in Mexico. My dad then, I think, aged five or six, came back to the U.S. with this family. That they went broke multiple times. His dad was a contractor. My dad didn't complete college but went on to be head of a car company and then a governor. I think it's a remarkable story. And I'm very proud of my heritage. I'm – without question I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I'm proud of that. Some call that the Mormon Church. That's fine with me. I'll talk about my experiences in the Church. There's no question they've helped shape my perspective.
WILLIAMS: I know how much you love quoting unnamed Romney advisers. So here's a Republican official familiar with your campaign selection process, told the folks at Politico you are looking for a, quote, "incredibly boring white guy" for your vice presidential nominee. Can you confirm or deny?
ROMNEY: You told me you were not available.
WILLIAMS: Touche, Governor.
ROMNEY: I can't give you anything on that front whatsoever. I can tell you I'm not going to announce it this week. While I'm overseas, I'm not going to announce my vice presidential running mate. But when the decision is made, I'll make that announcement. It's not made yet. But I can't tell you when it's going to be. That's something which we'll decide down the road.
WILLIAMS: Part of our conversation today here in London with Governor Romney. There is more on the web, including his personal stake in the games. His wife's dressage horse competing in these London summer Olympics.