The PJ Tatler

Romney's Latest Scandal: He Didn't Really Poop in a Bucket When He Was a Missionary in France

Regretting that odd $10,000 bet he made during the last debate, Mitt Romney sought to play up his austerity bona fides by referring to his days as a young missionary in France.

First, France? They don’t shave a lot there (the women, I mean) but I’ve been to the place. It’s beautiful if you can get past the rampant rudeness. And not think about the not shaving. It’s not like the place was full of toughs back in the 1960s. Look at ’em crosswise and they’ll surrender to you.

Here’s how Romney described the adventure.

At a campaign event in New Hampshire on Sunday, he gave a rare account of his two and a half years from July 1966 as a missionary in France, which he described as “not exactly a Third World country”.

He was forced to live off $110 a month. “So, I lived in a way that people of lower-middle income in France lived,” he said.

Explaining that he often had no working lavatory, Mr Romney said: “We had instead the little pads on the ground There was a chain behind you with a bucket”.

Sounds rough, dude. But his fellow missionaries it’s not exactly accurate.

[T]he Republican presidential hopeful spent a significant portion of his 30-month mission in a Paris mansion described by fellow American missionaries to The Daily Telegraphas “palace”. It featured stained glass windows, chandeliers, and an extensive art collection. It was staffed by two servants – a Spanish chef and a houseboy.

Were they in France legally?

Although he spent time in other French cities, for most of 1968, Mr Romney lived in the Mission Home, a 19th century neoclassical building in the French capital’s chic 16th arrondissement. “It was a house built by and for rich people,” said Richard Anderson, the son of the mission president at the time of Mr Romney’s stay. “I would describe it as a palace”.

Tearful as he described the house, Mr Anderson, 70, of Kaysville, Utah, said Romney aides had asked him not to speak publicly about their time together there.

Lying about one’s past as a missionary? And a cone of silence to cover it up? Egad. I might have to consult the lone historian in the GOP race, but I’m pretty sure that’s never come up in a presidential primary before.

The building, on Rue de Lota, was bought by the Mormons in 1952, having been seized by the Nazis during the Second World War. The Church sold it again in the 1970s, and it was until recently the embassy of the United Arab Emirates. It is currently worth as much as $12 million (£7.7 million).

Mr Romney moved into the building following a stay in Bordeaux, after being promoted to assistant to the president, Duane Anderson. He arrived in the spring of 1968, weeks before Paris erupted into riots, and returned to the US that December. He was given a room on the third floor.

“They were very big rooms,” said Christian Euvrard, the 72-year-old director of the Mormon-run Institute of Religion in Paris, who knew Mr Romney. “Very comfortable. The building had beautiful gilded interiors, a magnificent staircase in cast iron, and an immense hall.”

And refrigerators and indoor plumbing.

Second look at Hunstman?