Aide: Romney found Eastwood speech "funny"

Actor Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair while addressing delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Clint Eastwood
Actor Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair while addressing delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Updated with additional comments Saturday, 8:21 a.m. ET

(CBS News) KENNER, La. -- A senior adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign acknowledged on Friday that actor/director Clint Eastwood veered off previously discussed talking points in his controversial Republican National Convention address, but said the Republican nominee enjoyed the speech and found it "funny."

"I was backstage with him and he was laughing," said the adviser, Stuart Stevens, speaking to reporters aboard Romney's charter flight in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

The New York Times, quoting unnamed aides, said Eastwood's speech seemed to startle and unsettle the Romney campaign, and that several of them took pains to distance themselves from the decision to put him onstage without a script that had been rehearsed like virtually all other prime-time convention addresses.

Eastwood's speech, which went for 12 minutes instead of the allotted five, consisted largely of a meandering indictment of President Obama, with the Hollywood icon addressing an empty chair to represent Mr. Obama. He touched on a variety of topics, from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay to the war in Afghanistan, while also getting in digs at Biden -- whom he called "a grin with a body behind it" -- and seemingly made a coarse joke about the president.

Asked for his reaction to the joke, Stevens said it was "probably a lot less damaging and meaningless and more meaningless than the president of the United States supporting a campaign that's accusing Mitt Romney of being responsible of someone's murder," referring to an ad created by a super PAC supporting Obama that sought to link Romney's Bain Capital to a woman's death from cancer. Stevens later said he had been referring to the cancer death and had not meant to use the word "murder."

Stevens said Eastwood did not have prepared remarks and was planning to ad-lib.

Stevens called Eastwood's use of the chair "improv" and said the campaign was unaware that Eastwood was going to use the prop. The actor asked for the chair shortly before going onstage, but a Romney aide said the prop person assumed Eastwood was going to sit in it.

"I never discussed, I mean, about a chair. Don't know," said Stevens. "This was an idea, a moment that moved him, I would say, and he went with it."

Although Stevens acknowledged that he began eyeing the clock as Eastwood's remarks stretched on, he insisted that the campaign was happy with the celebrity's performance.

"He's an astonishing talent ... he's had the most remarkable career," Stevens said. "And if someone wants to say, 'Well, you know, I would have done this differently or that differently,' have at it."

Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, told a television station in Virginia on Friday that he wasn't bothered by the speech. "I think Clint Eastwood was just being Clint Eastwood," Ryan said.

Rebecca Kaplan contributed

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    Sarah Huisenga is covering the Mitt Romney campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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