Afternoon Open Thread: Did Mitt Romney Lie About His 1968 Car Crash?

Mitt Romney recovering after emerging a head-on car crash

Joseph Cannon has a fascinating piece up on the car crash that Mitt Romney was involved in when he was a Mormon missionary in France in the 1960s. (Thanks to RalphB for sending me over to Cannonfire this morning.) Here’s Cannon’s brief summary of the events in question:

In 1968, Romney was a Mormon missionary in France, zooming his Citroen through the small town of Bernos-Beaulac, when he slammed headlong into a car driven by a Bishop named Jean Vilnet.

Romney was in a coma for days afterwards, or so he says. (The point has been disputed.) One of his passengers died — and therein lies a scandal.

For many years, Mitt claimed that the accident killed a drunken priest named Albert Marie, who had caused the collision by swerving at high speed into Romney’s lane. That story was not true. The “priest” did not die, was not drunk, was not traveling at high speed, and was not at fault.

For what it’s worth, the “priest” was then, and is now, a bishop; his name is not Albert Marie. Although Mitt Romney spoke French well, he apparently didn’t understand how nomenclature works in France: The final part of a male first name may be a traditionally female name, attached with a hyphen — and in religious families, that name is usually Marie. As it happens, the full name of the man Romney hit is Jean-Félix-Albert-Marie Vilnet.

A woman died in the crash, Leola Anderson. She was the wife of Duane Anderson, Romney’s superior in the Paris mission. Romney had been tasked with driving his boss and the other passengers to another mission where Duane Anderson was needed to solve a crisis.

Please read the whole post at Cannonfire if you can. Cannon provides a number of links, which I followed. This one provides the most evidence for Romney lying about the accident. The author argues, based on photographic evidence, that the accident could not have occurred as Romney described it.

Bishop Vilnet recovering from injuries sustained in the collision with Mitt Romney’s car

Details from Mr. Romney and his supporters are not consistent with photographic evidence and follow up interviews. A view of the impact site tells us the rest of the story:

— The cover story has the driver of the other car presented as a “drunk priest” identified by the various missionary sources with the name “Albert Marie, age 46” in 1968 and in 2007 said to be dead.

Contrary to the cover up tale he is Bishop Jean Vilnet. Full name: Bishop Jean-Félix-Albert-Marie Vilnet. Born in 1922. By American count that did make him 46.

[The photo above] was taken as he recovered from his injuries in the hospital at Bazas, up the road from Beaulac. He was driving the Mercedes Benz 180 in this accident. He is not dead, not yet anyway. He was not blamed by anyone in a responsible position for the accident. That blame was invented (as “woven from whole cloth” in legal parlance) by the missionary team.

— The cover story asserts further that this “drunk priest” was speeding at “120 kph” and swerved out of lane to hit the blameless Mr. Romney. This is the story that was told to the children of Mrs. Anderson all the way back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Photo of Vilnet’s and Romney’s cars after the crash

At this link, there is a photo of a Citroen DS just like the one Romney was driving. This one was actually in a high-speed, head-on collision.

Citroen DS after high-speed, head-on collision

The author of the post writes:

Romney was driving at normal highway speed. He has said repeatedly that he did not hit his brakes. If the Mercedes 180 had been going normal highway speed (much less the alleged “120 kph” claim), then Romney’s Citroën DS would have been annihilated — all six of the people in the Citroën would have been killed.

Given that we are analyzing a collision, the fact that Bishop Vilnet had slowed down entering the southbound Left Turn lane — from N524 into Rue de la Poste — that slowing down is what saved their lives. The accident described in Romney’s false-witness tale and now echoed in Wikipedia is physically impossible.

This article from Le Monde repeats the Romney version of the accident, but contains quotes from a couple who were in the car with Romney during the accident as saying they have been asked not to comment about the events that took place back in 1968.

More than 40 years later, André and Paulette Salarnier, French Mormons who often cooked “coq au vin” and mushroom-stuffed crepes for the young Romney, say they received several emails from the candidate’s entourage asking them to no longer speak to reporters about the 1968 accident.

They just remember “an open and charming young man speaking French almost without an accent.” André Salarnier also makes sure to prevent any backlash regarding his famous “coq au vin,” a dish that could be forbidden to water-drinking Mormons and shatter Romney’s image as a pious Mormon: “The wine being cooked, it no longer contains alcohol.” A way to stop anyone from thinking that “Young Mitt” may have been corrupted by the French and their famous Bordeaux vintages.

Many thanks to Joseph Cannon for digging up another great story about Mitt Romney. I’m not sure if there is any way to actually prove that Mitt lied about the accident, but it would certainly be in character with what we know about his incessant lying during the presidential campaign. So what do you think?

Again, this is an open thread.

28 Comments on “Afternoon Open Thread: Did Mitt Romney Lie About His 1968 Car Crash?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    A Daily Kos diary that Cannon links to–very complicated but interesting info.

    • pdgrey says:

      That was really hard to follow. What did you get out of the Kos link?

      • bostonboomer says:

        It’s a little weird. The guy is claiming that the Romney people have scrubbed things from the internet and trying to back that up by giving examples of dishonesty by Romney about his place of residence when he wanted to run for Governor of MA. It was obvious that his official residence was in Utah, but he claimed he spent lots of time in MA because he was still CEO of Bain. Then when it became inconvenient, he changed his story and claimed he quit Bain in 1999.

        It’s not really evidence of dishonesty when he was 21, but I can believe that George Romney would have wanted to cover up his son causing a fatal accident. The best evidence is the fact that the other driver is still alive and the photos that show the accident happened at slow speeds. IMO, scrubbing things from the internet is common though. Obama certainly did it in 2008.

        None of this will ever make it into the mainstream–even if it did, no one would believe it. It’s just an interesting story about Romney’s past and the ways he alters it.

      • pdgrey says:

        Thanks, I just got off work, and had had a glass of wine. I thought I was losing my mind.

      • bostonboomer says:

        LOL! It took me awhile to figure out Joseph Cannon’s post.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Lying for the Lord in Mormonism

    Lying for the Lord refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion, a practice which Mormonism itself fosters in various ways. From Joseph Smith’s denial of having more than one wife, to polygamous Mormon missionaries telling European investigators that reports about polygamy in Utah were lies put out by “anti-Mormons” and disgruntled ex-members, to Gordon B. Hinckley’s dishonest equivocation on national television over Mormon doctrine, Mormonism’s history seems replete with examples of lying. Common members see such examples as situations where lying is justified. For the Mormon, loyalty and the welfare of the church are more important than the principle of honesty, and plausible denials and deception by omission are warranted by an opportunity to have the Mormon organization seen in the best possible light. This is part of the larger package of things that lead many to describe Mormonism as a cult. “Lying for the lord” is part of Mormonism’s larger deceptive mainstreaming tactics, and conversion numbers would drastically lower if important Mormon beliefs were fully disclosed to investigators.

    • northwestrain says:

      Lying and dishonesty seem to be a hallmark of politicians and Presidents in particular. The Mormons have a lot more secrets than that secret handshake to enter the temple and all the other cult rules. It isn’t surprising that the Mormons are taught to lie — by sidestepping or flat out denying something that should be obvious. There are enough honest exMormons who are willing to endure all manner of harsh treatment from family and friends to expose the dark underbelly of the LDS — that we know that Romney will do whatever it takes to elevate himself into the White House. He already has the lying and flip flopping down to an art form.

      BUT — 40% of voters do not know Romney is a Mormon. Most people believe Mormons are Christians — which Mormons can’t be in truth because they have a completely alternative mythology. If Mormons are Christians than the Native Hawaiian (pre Captain Cook) are Christians.

      Sure on the surface Mormons are really nice people (they want more converts) but there is that dark side — the cult mentality.

      In Utah the LDS churches are very distinctive — even without huge signs the cookie cutter same same design is evident. It is through these churches that the cult controls the members. Knowledge is control and the leadership has knowledge of everyone of its members. (This bit of information was from Mormon friends — anyone who acts differently is given “special” attention.)

    • Allie says:

      What a creepy sect. I had no idea about lying for the lord – one of many looney Mormon beliefs. The “lying is OK” dovetails nicely with Republican “ends justify the means” modus operandi.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It is creepy–it’s more like Scientology than any other religion I can think of.

  3. RalphB says:

    The video is funny. Obama does not sound like a worried man to me.

    Obama hits Romney on Seamus

    OSKALOOSA, Iowa — President Obama strayed from his prepared remarks here Tuesday to get in a jab at Mitt Romney’s famous dog-on-top-of-car moment.

    Noting that the Republican candidate has criticized wind energy, saying a windmill can’t be put on top of a car to power it, Obama had a zinger.

    “I don’t know if he’s actually tried that,” Obama said. “I know he’s had other things on his car.”

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Romney campaign accuses Biden of using racial code words. Talk about projection!

    • RalphB says:

      The Obama campaign is refusing to back away from Vice President Joe Biden’s accusation that Mitt Romney and the GOP will put Americans in “chains” if they are elected.
      We have no problem with those comments,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

      Pressed on whether President Obama himself agrees with those comments, Cutter said the full context of the remarks was important.

      “[Obama] probably agrees with Joe Biden’s sentiments,” Cutter said. “He’s using a metaphor to talk about what’s going to happen.”
      “I appreciate the faux outrage from the Romney campaign. But if you want to talk about the use of words, then take a look at MR’s stump speech where he basically calls the president ‘un-American,’” Cutter added.

      Senior strategist David Axelrod also denounced the controversy, tweeting: “Enough phony outrage from Team Mitt, while they pour millions into ads that blatantly, brazenly lie about POTUS record on welfare to work.”

      • Fannie says:

        Love me some Sam Cook…………….that’s the sound of the man working on a chain gang……..

    • RalphB says:

      From the Obama campaign: “For months, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan, and other Republicans have called for the ‘unshackling’ of the private sector from regulations that protect Americans from risky financial deals and other reckless behavior that crashed our economy. Since then, the Vice President has often used a similar metaphor to describe the need to ‘unshackle’ the middle class. Today’s comments were a derivative of those remarks, describing the devastating impact letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle class families. We find the Romney campaign’s outrage over the Vice President’s comments today hypocritical, particularly in light of their own candidate’s stump speech questioning the President’s patriotism. Now, let’s return to that ‘substantive’ debate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promised 72 hours ago, but quickly abandoned.”

      Heh! Wonder if they are just baiting them to make them whine?

  5. mablue2 says:

    Oh no BB, leave Sarah Palin Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan alone.

    You may be hunted by a bunch of stalker who have nothing better to do with their lives than to throw bile toward anyone who doesn’t have irrational hatred for Obama.

    • dakinikat says:

      I take it you checked the trash? It’s filled with nastiness.

      • mablue2 says:

        Actually I haven’t. I can only imagine.

        You know how the Intertubz are: You follow a link and you land in some sewer.

      • bostonboomer says:

        First we were reviled for choosing Hillary over Obama, now we’re reviled for facing the reality that Obama isn’t as bad as what the Republicans have in store for us.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “First we were reviled for choosing Hillary over Obama, now we’re reviled for facing the reality that Obama isn’t as bad as what the Republicans have in store for us.”

        I think we’re being reviled for not being Obama hate zombies and for having the courage to say we’re not going to be ratfucked by them again. In 2008 I could, with a clear conscience, cast my protest vote against Obama,because I knew that John McCain and/or most 3rd party candidates weren’t going to take our country over the wing-nut cliff, But those days are gone, forever.

        Romney is a weirdo who gives me the creeps and Ryan is scarey AynRandoid kook. There is only one sane choice if you don’t want these guys to win, Obama/Biden.

  6. dakinikat says:

    David A. Stockman / New York Times:
    Paul Ryan’s Fairy-Tale Budget Plan

    Mr. Ryan’s sonorous campaign rhetoric about shrinking Big Government and giving tax cuts to “job creators” (read: the top 2 percent) will do nothing to reverse the nation’s economic decline and arrest its fiscal collapse.

    Mr. Ryan professes to be a defense hawk, though the true conservatives of modern times — Calvin Coolidge, Herbert C. Hoover, Robert A. Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, even Gerald R. Ford — would have had no use for the neoconconservative imperialism that the G.O.P. cobbled from policy salons run by Irving Kristol’s ex-Trotskyites three decades ago. These doctrines now saddle our bankrupt nation with a roughly $775 billion “defense” budget in a world where we have no advanced industrial state enemies and have been fired (appropriately) as the global policeman.

  7. RalphB says:

    Just for the heck of it. The young people in this ad are a very nice touch.

    • RalphB says:

      It’s not really that uncommon in the Southwest and Mountain West for Republicans to run a second Democrat or, more often a Green, as a stalking horse to split the vote. It’s pretty obvious that’s what is happening with this Sternad guy.

  8. RalphB says:

    No one would have done this only a year or so ago.

    LGF: Racist freak objects to black grocery sacker, gets thrown out, files suit.

  9. dakinikat says:

    From Politico:

    In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.

    • dakinikat says:

      And that skepticism about Ryan among GOP strategists is striking.

      They’re worried about inviting Medicare — usually death for Republicans — into the campaign. They’re worried it sidetracks the jobs issue. They’re worried he’ll expose the fact that Romney doesn’t have a budget plan. Most of all, they’re worried that Romney was on track to lose anyway — and now that feels all but certain.