Former Massachusetts governor and social media maven Mitt Romney sent a tweet on Friday criticizing Russian leader Vladimir Putin. That tiny missive doubled as an unstated at Donald Trump.
Here’s the tweet, in which Romney calls Putin as a “thug.’’
Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 18, 2015
This, for the uninitiated, is typically referred to as a subtweet, or a critical tweet in which the target isn’t mentioned. Consider it the publicly available version of talking behind someone’s back.
“Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia,’’ Trump said.
In response, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough noted that Putin also “kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries.’’
“He’s running this country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,’’ Trump said.
Scarborough again reiterated the allegations against Putin killing journalists.
“I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe,’’ Trump said. “There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now.’’
That odd defense of Putin was the line that brought out Romney’s subtweet. It’s not Romney’s first foray into subtweeting Trump this election cycle.
In August, after Trump’s extended tirade against Fox News host Megyn Kelly, Romney retweeted his wife’s support of the female news host.
I stand with @megynkelly: intelligent, articulate, insightful, assertive, confident, a true professional.— Ann Romney (@AnnDRomney) August 9, 2015
And in September, after Ben Carson said he would not support electing a Muslim president, Romney admonished him without dropping his name.
Of course, no religious test for the presidency--every faith adds to our national character.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 22, 2015
The subtweets are all part of Romney’s growing prowess at social media, where he favors family photos and the occasional selfie. His 1.69 million Twitter followers attest to that success.
Of course, Romney isn’t afraid to call out a candidate by name. He did so earlier this month when Trump said he would temporarily ban all Muslims from coming to the U.S.
Gallery: 100 years of Massachusetts governors.