Mitt Romney dog incident
|Location||Romneys' station wagon en route from Belmont, Massachusetts to Beach O'Pines, Ontario|
|First reporter||Reported by Neil Swidey in The Boston Globe in June 2007|
|Participants||Mitt Romney, his wife Ann Romney, their children, and their pet dog Seamus|
The Romneys' Irish Setter, Seamus
During a 1983 family vacation, Mitt Romney drove twelve hours with his dog Seamus on top of the car in a windshield-equipped carrier. This incident became the subject of negative media attention and political attacks on Romney in both the 2008 and the 2012 presidential elections.
Road trip in 1983
In June 1983, the Romney family left their Belmont, Massachusetts home on their way to Romney's parents' cottage in Beach O'Pines, Ontario for an annual vacation along the shore of Lake Huron. Seamus rode in a carrier on the roof of the family's Chevrolet Caprice station wagon for the 12 hour trip. Romney had built a windshield for the carrier to make the ride more comfortable for the dog. During the 650-mile (1,050 km) trip, Seamus got diarrhea. Romney stopped at a gas station to wash the dog, the carrier and the car. With Seamus back in the carrier, the family continued on their way.
Background about Seamus the dog
Seamus (// SHAY-muss), an Irish Setter, was an active, outgoing dog, and was the Romney family's first pet dog. It is generally reported that, a few years after his ride to Canada, Seamus was given to Mitt Romney's sister, Jane Romney Robinson of California, who said, "He kept ending up at the pound. They were worried about him getting hit crossing the street. We had more space, so he could roam more freely." The dog's date of death is unknown, but Robinson stated that Seamus lived to a "ripe old age" on her farm in California.
Response from the Romney family
When interviewed by Chris Wallace of Fox News, Romney stated that Seamus enjoyed being in the dog carrier, an "air-tight kennel", and that he was not aware of any violations of Massachusetts law. Ann Romney, Mitt Romney's wife, has stated that the news media exaggerated the severity of the incident, and compared traveling in the roof-top dog carrier to riding a motorcycle or riding in the bed of a pickup truck. During an April 2012 interview with ABC News, Diane Sawyer asked Mitt Romney about the Seamus story and if he would ever do it again. Romney replied, "Certainly not with the attention it's received", after which Sawyer stated, "You said it was the most wounding thing in the campaign so far", though it is ambiguous as to whether Romney agreed with this statement. During the same interview, Ann Romney stated that Seamus got diarrhea from eating turkey off the table before the trip, and that the dog loved the crate. Romney stated that he loved his dog.
In 2007, it was reported that Ingrid Newkirk, president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), criticized Romney about this incident. Responding to PETA, Romney said, "my dog likes fresh air".
Newkirk has elaborated (speaking for herself rather than for PETA) that the Seamus incident irritates her because "there are far more serious issues to talk about" regarding mistreatment of animals.
During the 2012 U.S. Republican presidential primaries, candidate Newt Gingrich aired an anti-Romney attack ad that featured the story. While appearing on the ABC show This Week, Republican candidate Rick Santorum stated, "As far as Seamus the dog ... the issues of character are important in this election. We need to look at all those issues and make a determination as to whether that's the kind of person [Romney] you want to be president of the United States.” Santorum's view was at odds with that of Bill Wasik, senior editor of Wired Magazine: "Yet looking back on the Seamus Romney story today, what is most striking is its forgettability, how indistinguishable it seems in retrospect from the idiots' parade of meaningless stories that came to define the  campaign."
Overlooked in the clucking over the incident is the fact that the dog was in a crate, probably little different from the dog kennels used to transport animals in the cold-storage compartments of airplanes. Romney had erected a barrier to shield the family pet from the wind. Romney, the family man heading to the lake, didn't seem heartless at the time. But politics is a heartless business.
Journalist Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post defended Mitt Romney's treatment of Seamus, stating, "Doesn’t the fact that Romney chose to bring the dog on the family vacation, rather than dump him in a kennel back home, suggest that he’s a dog lover, not a hater?" Neil Swidey, the Boston Globe journalist who wrote the initial article about Romney's 1983 road trip, stated, "[Seamus] always struck me as a valuable window into how Romney operates. In everything the guy does, he functions on logic, not emotion."
A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey found that 74% of Democrats, 66% of Independents, and 63% of Republicans consider it inhumane to put a family dog in a kennel on the roof of a car. The poll did not mention the windshield. The poll also found that 35% of voters would be less likely to vote for Romney because of the Seamus incident, whereas 55% of voters said that it would not affect how they vote. As of September 2012, New York Times columnist Gail Collins had mentioned the Romneys' car trip more than 70 times.
Responding to Democrats who emphasized the Seamus story, conservative bloggers such as Jim Treacher drew a comparison between the Seamus incident and Barack Obama sampling dog meat as a child in Indonesia, where it is a local delicacy, as mentioned in Obama's autobiography. While an Obama spokesman called it an attack on a small child, Obama himself has displayed a sense of humor about it.[A]
In August 2012, the band Devo released a single called "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro (Seamus Unleashed)", to keep the incident in the news as the presidential campaign moved to a conclusion. Seamus was the inspiration for Bob Staake's March 12, 2012 New Yorker cover showing Rick Santorum on the roof of a car. It also inspired a book on the subject, and a website selling anti-Romney related wares.
- The White House Correspondents' Dinner saw Obama saying that Sarah Palin's stint guest hosting The Today Show reminded him of an old query: "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious." Delaney, Arthur; Stuart, Hunter (April 30, 2012). "Obama Ate Dog, And He'd Do It Again To Remind You Of Seamus Romney" (Video). Huffington Post. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Swidey, Neil; Ebbert, Stephanie (June 27, 2007). "Journeys of a shared life". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Mikkelson, Barbara; Mikkelson, David (January 21, 2008). "Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney transported a dog atop his car". Snopes.com. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Parker, Jennifer (June 28, 2007). "Romney strapped dog to car roof". ABC News. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Moos, Jeanne (January 13, 2012). "Mitt Romney 'dog-on-the-roof' story appears in Newt Gingrich ad". KSDK News (St. Louis). Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Romney, Ann (June 30, 2007). "From Ann Romney". Mitt Romney – Road to the White House. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Swidey, Neil (July 10, 2007). "Introducing Seamus Romney, 'Mr. Personality'". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Jacobson, Julie (February 3, 2012). "Tale of pooch on car roof dogs Romney". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Kottwitz, Sue (January 8, 2012). "Dog politics: Mitt Romney, Seamus & the now infamous vacation". Zimbio. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Goldman, Russell; Friedman, Emily (April 16, 2012). "Dog Seamus 'loved' trips atop family car, Says Ann Romney". ABC News.
- Little, Morgan (April 17, 2012). "Mitt, Ann Romney defend putting dog on car roof; fallout continues". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- *Price, Dave (June 30, 2007). "Romney Loves His Dog" (video). WHO-DT. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- Cox, Ana Marie (June 27, 2007). "Romney's cruel canine vacation". TIME Magazine.
- Folkenflik, David (December 20, 2011). "Why Mitt Romney's Dog Is Getting A Lot Of Press". NPR. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Noveck, Jocelyn. "Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama: Who gets the dog owners vote?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
- "Seamus Returns – Gingrich Ad Revives Romney’s Dog Debacle" (video/text). ABC News. January 11, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Oliphant, James (January 12, 2012). "New anti-Romney ad by Gingrich goes to the dog". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Hunt, Kasie (January 14, 2012). "Attacks on Romney getting personal". Associated Press.
- Bingham, Amy (March 19, 2012). "Santorum team doggedly resurrects Romney's Seamus tale". ABC News. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Wasik, Bill (2009). And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. Penguin Publishing. p. 145.
- Allen, Mike; Thomas, Evan (2012). Inside the Circus. Random House.
- Marcus, Ruth (March 15, 2012). "Doggone it, stop hounding Romney". Washington Post.
- Swidey, Neil (January 8, 2012). "What our fascination with Mitt Romney's dog Seamus says about our culture". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Jensen, Tom (March 20, 2012). "Polling on Romney's 'dog problem'". Public Policy Polling. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Rucker, Philip (March 14, 2012). "Mitt Romney’s dog-on-the-car-roof story still proves to be his critics’ best friend". Washington Post. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Aldrich, Matthew (May 13, 2012). "Complete list of every time Gail Collins has mentioned the Seamus incident". String & Sealing Wax. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Drobnic Holan, Angie (September 13, 2011). "Mitt Romney and the dog on the car roof: one columnist's obsession". Tampa Bay Times. PolitiFact.com. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Wyler, Grace (April 18, 2012). Conservatives Fight Back: Barack Obama Ate a Dog. Business Insider. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Zengerle, Patricia (April 18, 2012). "So neither party gets the dog vote?". Reuters. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Poundstone, William (September 15, 2012). "The Art of Seamus (Romney)". William Poundstone On Art and Chaos: Los Angeles County Museum on Fire. Blouin Art Info.
- Shaw, Michael (March 5, 2012). "The New Yorker Romney/Ricky "Dog on the Roof" Cover – Why it's Burning More Rubber Right Now". Retrieved September 12, 2012.
- Grossman, Anna Jane. "Obama Raising Campaign Funds by Selling Officially-Branded Dog Apparel". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- "Devo Backs Seamus: 'Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro!'". August 16, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Miller, Julie (August 15, 2012). "Devo Dedicates a Song to Seamus Romney, Mitt’s Late, Roof-Strapped Dog". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Kluger, Bruce; Slavin, David; Clapp, Colleen (Illustrator) (June 19, 2012). Dog on the Roof!: On the Road with Mitt and the Mutt (Hardcover). New York, NY: Touchstone. p. 64. ISBN 1451698887. ISBN 978-1451698886.
- Kronenberg, Jerry (January 17, 2012). "Canine support goes to the dogs". Boston Herald. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- "Romney on his dog Seamus" (video). Wall Street Journal. December 21, 2011.
- Sawyer, Diane (April 16, 2012). "Transcript: Mitt and Ann Romney's interview with Diane Sawyer (page 8)". ABC News.