Mitt Romney was loudly booed at the Utah Republican party convention on Saturday – and called a “traitor” and a “communist” as he tried to speak.
“Aren’t you embarrassed?” the Salt Lake City Tribune reported the Utah senator asking the crowd of 2,100 delegates at the Maverik Center in West Valley City. “I’m a man who says what he means, and you know I was not a fan of our last president’s character issues.”
Romney was the sole Republican to vote to impeach Donald Trump twice – for seeking political dirt on opponents from Ukraine and for inciting the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January, before which he told supporters to “fight like hell” in support of his lie that the presidential election was stolen by Joe Biden.
Six other Republican senators voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment.
“You can boo all you like,” Romney told a crowd the Tribune said spat insults “like so many poison darts”.
“I’ve been a Republican all my life. My dad was the governor of Michigan and I was the Republican nominee for president in 2012.”
Romney, who will not face re-election in 2022, was also a governor of Massachusetts and would ordinarily be a member of the GOP establishment.
But the party is firmly in the grip of Trump and his supporters – according to a CNN poll this week, 70% of Republicans believe the lie that Biden did not win enough legitimate votes to be president.
At the Utah convention, a motion to censure Romney failed narrowly. Some in the crowd applauded and after the state party chair, Derek Brown, asked delegates to show respect, Romney ended with a plea to “come together in strength and unity”.
Other speakers faced dissent, among them governor Spencer Cox. He told a largely maskless crowd he knew some “hated” him for his Covid-19 mitigation measures – but touted other moves such as banning “vaccine passports” in state government.
Private businesses in Utah can still demand proof of vaccination.
In one of many attacks on Biden’s attempts to pass new spending bills on top of the $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill passed in March, Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, told Republicans Democrats followed “one idea: unquestionable trust in government”.
Chris Stewart, a congressman, told the crowd Biden was pursuing an agenda of “radical socialism”. He also said the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, “kind of sucks”.