POSTED: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 4:15pm
UPDATED: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 4:19pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — As Mitt Romney arrived in Poland, his staff was back in damage control.
The latest controversy came as Romney capped off his visit to Israel at a fundraiser hosted by wealthy Americans.
He praised the economic success of Israelis, whose annual income averages $31,000 versus the poverty of Palestinians, who average just $15,000.
"Culture makes all the difference," said Romney, citing a book on development. "I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things."
Palestinian leaders called the remark racist, because Romney failed to mention the effects of the Israeli occupation.
With the candidate and his wife, Ann, in Poland, Romney staffers insisted his remarks were grossly mischaracterized.
John McCain said he meant Palestinians have bad leadership, “I am sure that Governor Romney was not talking about difference in cultures or whether anybody is superior or inferior."
As President Obama headed to a fundraiser in New York, a center of support for Israel, his spokesman took a shot at Romney.
"It is clear that there are some people who have taken a look at those comments and are scratching their heads a little bit," states spokesman Josh Earnest.