WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - Mitt Romney mistakenly confused the words "Sikh" and "sheik" at a fundraiser here Tuesday night when he offered his condolences to the victims of last weekend’s shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee correctly spoke of the Sikh religion earlier in the day at a campaign event in Illinois. But at the Iowa fundraiser, he instead talked about the "sheik temple" and the "sheik people." Sheik is an Arabic honorific, whereas Sikh is a religion with roots in South Asia.
Referencing his earlier event in the Chicago area, Romney said: "We had a moment of silence in honor of the people who lost their lives at that sheik temple. I noted that it was a tragedy for many, many reasons. Among them are the fact that people, the sheik people, are among the most peaceable and loving individuals you can imagine, as is their faith."
Romney spokesman Rick Gorka said the candidate "mispronounced similar-sounding words" and was not trying to offend people of the Sikh faith.