Mitt Romney in McKay Coppins' new book spoke about the 2016 dinner photo with Trump that went viral.
Romney was under consideration to be secretary of state at the time, and met with Trump to discuss world affairs.
Romney said that the "awkwardness" of the photo came from cameras snapping in such a public setting.
It was the photo that seemingly broke the internet.
In November 2016, Mitt Romney dined with Donald Trump — who was then the president-elect — at the posh Jean-Georges restaurant at the Trump International Hotel and Tower overlooking Central Park in New York City.
Photographers had a field day as they captured images of the meeting, where Trump and Romney discussed world affairs and his potential appointment as secretary of state.
That Romney was even talking to Trump was astonishing to observers given their thorny personal history.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Romney was one of Trump's biggest Republican detractors, and famously gave a major speech in March that year where he called the then-presidential contender a "con man" and a "fraud."
As the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, Romney's very public rebuke of Trump turned heads, and Trump was none too thrilled about the criticism, contending that Romney had begged him for an endorsement four years earlier.
Immediately after Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November 2016, he began meeting with GOP officeholders and leaders regarding potential Cabinet appointments.
Most observers didn't see Romney as someone who would have been invited to New York to speak with Trump.
So when Romney had a seemingly pained look on his face as he turned in the direction of the cameras at the dinner, he received a torrent of criticism — along with a fair amount of wisecracks — from those who felt as though he had compromised his values by potentially joining the administration.
But in the newly-released book, "Romney: A Reckoning," the now-Utah senator told author McKay Coppins that his facial expression wasn't the result of any feeling of embarrassment, but came from him being captured by photographers in such a public setting.
"It had nothing to do with Donald Trump," Romney remarked to Coppins. "It had to do with the awkwardness of being in a public restaurant and cameras coming in and taking pictures."
Later that evening, Romney told members of the press that he had a "wonderful evening" with Trump and said their talks regarding global affairs had been "interesting and engaging."
Trump then called Romney and said that several close allies — notably former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani — disliked him. Trump then told Romney that he needed to come out forcefully in support of him to quell detractors.
Given Romney's longstanding feelings about Trump, he declined to take the president-elect up on the offer.
Trump would go on to tap prominent energy executive Rex Tillerson for the role. Tillerson served as secretary of state from February 2017 to March 2018 — in what was a stormy tenure — and was succeeded by Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, held the position from April 2018 until the end of Trump's term in January 2021.
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