After comparing GOP to communist China, Jon Huntsman blames the media, but doesn’t back down

Updated

The Morning Joe gang had Jon Huntsman on the show Monday, giving the former Utah governor and GOP presidential candidate a chance to do damage control after some controversial comments at a New York event last night. But Huntsman didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity.

This is the second time Huntsman has appeared on Morning Joe since ending his bid for the White House.

In an interview Sunday night at the 92nd Street Y, Huntsman recounted how the Republican Party had disinvited him from a Florida fundraiser at which he was to speak, soon after he went on Morning Joe to call for a third party.

“This is what they do in China on party matters if you talk off script,” Huntsman, who as the Obama administration’s ambassador to China, told the crowd at the Y.

The comments were quickly reported by Buzzfeed, then picked up more broadly, sparking a furor on conservative blogs.

On Monday’s show, Huntsman said he’d merely been “waxing philosophical” at the Y event, and dismissed Buzzfeed by pretending to get its name wrong – “Bottom Feeder, Buzzsaw, Buzzfeed, whatever they are” – before blaming the site for taking his words “out of context.”

But Huntsman didn’t back down from his larger point about the GOP’s inflexibility.

“The parties are supposed to be a big tent, you’re supposed to bring in all ideas,” he said. “We should be accommodating all voices. I’m a proud Republican – I’m a Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan Republican. And this is the time  to go big and go bold and go visionary. The people of this country are waiting for it and the world is waiting for it too. We have a huge opening.”

And Huntsman continued to assail his party for not filling that opening.

“What does it stand for today?,” he asked of the GOP. “What are the driving ideals other than being against things? What are you for? What is your vision? What is the bold part of your agenda that you’re shooting for?”

Huntsman’s hardly the first person to note that the Republican Party has grown increasingly vigilant about ensuring its members toe the ideological line. Still, it’s hard to know how he expected to remain in good standing with the GOP after publicly calling for a third party. And a party that accommodated “all voices” – no matter how far they departed from the party’s core beliefs – would soon cease to have any internal logic whatsoever.

Huntsman did offer an endorsement – albeit a rather lukewarm one – for Mitt Romney.

“He has every ability to rise up to the occasion,” said Huntsman, later adding: “I think he’s the person who can get this economy moving again.”

And he slammed his former boss, President Obama, for “a missed opening to get the economy back on track,” arguing that Obama should have embraced the recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission. Though economists say the spending cuts and tax hikes proposed by Simpson-Bowles would have reduced short-term growth still further, Huntsman argued that by getting the deficit under control, the plan would have boosted market confidence.

After comparing GOP to communist China, Jon Huntsman blames the media, but doesn't back down

Updated