Scientist and author Jared Diamond said that Mitt Romney mischaracterized his book, "Guns, Germs and Steel," to theorize why Israelis and Palestinians have such vastly different levels of economic development at a fundraiser in Jerusalem Sunday.
He said that Romney "misrepresented my views" by stating that the book "basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth."
"That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it," he wrote in The New York Times on Tuesday. He also said that he focused mostly on "biological features" and there was no mention about iron ore in the book.
He said that the other author Romney cited, Harvard economist David Landes, would find Romney's thesis that culture accounts for economic differences "dangerously out of date."
Romney, speaking to a crowd -- which included GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson -- of about 40 Sunday at the famed King David Hotel, talked about why the Palestinians and Israelis had such drastically different levels of economic development.
"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," he said. Romney also mentioned the "hand of providence," and how the Jews have "long recognized the purpose in this place and in their lives that is greater than themselves and their own particular interests."
Romney did not mention how the occupation of the Palestinian territories has severely hampered economic development for decades.
Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called his statement "racist," and added, "it seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people."
While Romney may have scored points with some right-wing Jewish voters, his remarks were another distraction from time he could be speaking about the economy, his strongest claim against President Barack Obama in the presidential election.
He repeated the argument in a subsequent National Review article, entitled "Culture Does Matter."
"The linkage between freedom and economic development has a universal applicability," he wrote, citing the differences between East and West Germany and North and South Korea. But South Korea was an authoritarian country until the late 1980s, and China and Singapore are strong counterexamples to the notion that freedom and economic development are universally linked.
This isn't the first time Romney has seemingly mischaracterized a book he's read. Journalist Noam Scheiber said he wrongly used his book, "The Escape Artists," to accuse Obama of pushing the Affordable Care Act to intentionally slow down the economic recovery.
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