John Sununu suggested on Thursday that  Powell’s endorsement was motivated by race

John Sununu suggested on Thursday that Powell’s endorsement was motivated by race Lynne Sladky/AP

Colin Powell accused of race-based Obama endorsement

John Sununu later backed off comments about the retired general, a moderate Republican.

John Sununu, a top surrogate for Mitt Romney, suggested on Thursday that Gen. Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama’s bid for reelection in 2008 and 2012 was motivated by race, CNN reported.

Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor known for his candid commentary, intimated on CNN’sPiers Morgan Tonight that Powell’s endorsement of the president was based on issues other than policy. When pressed, Sununu pointed to the fact that the two men share the same race. 

“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to look at whether that's an endorsement based on issues or he's got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama," Sununu said. "I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being President of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him."

A few hours later, however, Sununu issued a statement in which he seemed to walk back the comment,Politico reported.

"Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president’s policies," Sununu said in the statement. "Piers Morgan’s question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don’t think he should."

Powell, a self-proclaimed “moderate Republican” who served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, lent his endorsement to Obama’s reelection early on Thursday on CBS’s This Morning, citing the president’s leadership in troubled times and his efforts against terrorism. He added that he had concerns about Romney’s views on both economic and foreign policies. Powell also endorsed Obama in 2008.