Mitt Romney Calls Donald Trump a "Con Man" in Blistering Speech

Mitt Romney and Donald Trump Split - H 2016
Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/ Tom Pennington/Getty Images

“If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished," the 2012 Republican presidential candidate said in a speech carried live on the cable news networks.

Mitt Romney, a strict Mormon and the Republican party’s nominee in 2012, unleashed a blistering attack on Donald Trump in a speech carried live across cable news Thursday morning.

Speaking from Utah University’s Hinckley Institute, Romney called Trump – the decisive Republican primary leader after taking seven states in Super Tuesday voting — a "con man" and "a fake."

“If we Republicans chose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” he said. "Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

The former Massachusetts governor took issue with Trump's "personal qualities," including "the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny and the absurd third-grade antics." Romney included references to a number of Trump's headline-making incidents including comments he made about members of the media. For instance, Romney brought up Trump's ugly remarks about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, saying Trump "attributed a reporter's questions to her menstrual cycle."

"Imagine your children and grandchildren acting like Trump," he added. 

Romney has warned that there are many land mines in Trump's past that could blow up the Republican party's chances to win the White House in November. He has persistently questioned why Trump has not released his tax returns. And he warned that a New York Times interview from January calls into question whether Trump would stand by his own hard-line stance on immigration. 

"We will only really know if he is the real deal and not a phony if he releases his tax returns and his interview with the New York Times," continued Romney. 

He also predicted that Trump's "infamous exchange" with CNN's Jake Tapper about Trump's equivocating on an endorsement by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke would play "endlessly" on cable and social media if Trump becomes the candidate. 

“This was a 'wow' speech,” CNN's Dana Bash said after Romney wrapped up his roughly 20 minutes' worth of remarks, noting that the 2012 nominee deftly delivered a preemptive punch by predicting how Trump would react to Romney’s speech.

“Watch by the way how he responds to my speech today,” said Romney, noting Trump’s penchant for personal insults. “Will he talk about our policy differences or will he attack me with every imaginable low-road insult?”

Of course, soon after Romney wrapped up, CNN and Fox News played a clip of Romney slavishly accepting Trump’s endorsement during Romney’s run for the White House four years ago.

Standing at a podium during a campaign stop in Nevada as Trump and Romney’s wife Ann Romney looked on, Romney then said that Trump has demonstrated an “extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works.”

While CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all covered Romney's speech and teased it with on-screen graphics and analysis leading up to the event, the broadcast networks stuck with regularly scheduled programming, which in New York included The View on ABC, Access Hollywood on NBC and The Price Is Right on CBS.

Trump attacked Romney earlier on Thursday but didn't chime in during the speech, tweeting shortly before it began that he was flying to Maine, indicating that he would be in the air during Romney's remarks.