Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate, on Saturday denounced the “poisonous language” of Bryan Fischer, but refused to call him out by name.

“We should remember that decency and civility are values too,” Romney told attendees of the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. “One of the speakers who'll follow me today has crossed that line, I think. Poisonous language doesn't advance our cause. It's never softened a single heart or changed a single mind.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

Romney had been called on by the progressive group People for the American Way to denounce the anti-gay rhetoric of Fischer, whose radio program is hosted by the American Family Association (AFA), a sponsor of Values Voter Summit.

“Mitt Romney clearly realized that his presidential campaign couldn't ignore the bigotry of Bryan Fischer and the American Family Association,” said Michael Keegan, President of People for the American Way. “I'm glad that he saw fit to put at least a small distance between himself and the hate speech regularly pushed by Fischer, even if he couldn't bring himself to call Fischer out by name. Since he began running for President, Mitt Romney has bent over backwards in a desperate attempt to make himself palatable to the extreme right. At least we've seen that there are some things he's willing to speak out against, no matter how tepid his condemnation may be. It's disappointing that none of the other candidates have been willing to go even that far.”

In remarks to media watchdog, Fischer said he found Romney's remarks “tasteless and tawdry.”

“I think he allowed the New York Times, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the People for the American Way, he allowed them to dictate the content of his speech at the Values Voter Summit,” he said. “And right there, people ought to be concerned about that.”

On his radio show, Focal Point, Fischer has previously called for a nationwide ban on gay sex, insisted the Nazi Party was run by “homosexual thugs,” and on World AIDS Day, he suggested allowing AIDS to run rampant, since, he argued, the disease mostly affects gay and bisexual men.