Romney says 'corporations are people,' heckled at Iowa event
August 11th, 2011
02:41 PM ET
3 years ago

Romney says 'corporations are people,' heckled at Iowa event

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - On Thursday, Mitt Romney faced the joys and political perils of a frontrunner in the Republican presidential race: at times feeling his supporters' political crush - but also fending off catcalls and heckles by critics.

The spontaneous drama at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines took several bizarre turns.

In one instance, the candidate declared "corporations are people" - a line surely to become ammunition for political opponents eager to cast Romney as a wealthy corporate raider unfamiliar with the concerns of average Americans.

At times Romney sounded populist themes, at one point saying: "If we're going to turn around the economy … Let's send some citizens to Washington." And yet, in another breath, the former Massachusetts governor defended big business against high taxes.

"Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said. "Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people."

Critics in the crowd laughed at Romney for the comment though his intent was unclear.

That hasn't stopped the Democratic National Committee from already seizing on the line.

"It is a shocking admission from a candidate-and a party-that shamelessly puts forward policies to help large corporations and the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class, seniors, and students," DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

In opening remarks, Romney reiterated familiar slams against President Obama.

"We're led by a man who's a fine fella. But he's out of his depth and doesn't understand how the economy works," Romney said.

It's when Romney ended his speech, and took questions from the audience, that things turned ugly.

Among the first questions shouted at Romney: "Do you support scrapping the Social Security payroll cap so that rich people pay their fair share into the trust fund?"

Romney's response: "You know there was a time in this country that we didn't celebrate attacking people based on their success. And we didn't go after people because they were successful."

Another questioner belted away at Romney.

"Sir, I am on Social Security," he said.

"My wife is on Social Security. You came here to listen to the people. How are you going to strengthen Social Security for the future?"

As the man continued to shout, Romney cut him short.

"You asked your question and now I am going to give my answer. If you don't like my answer then you can vote for someone else," Romney chastised. "But now it is my turn to give my answer."

The man later identified himself as Joe Fagan, a 71-year old former Catholic priest. He is the founder of the liberal community activist group Citizens for Community Improvement. In the past, Fagan has similarly heckled other Republican politicians.

As Romney insisted he would not raise taxes, the exchange became testy not unlike a defining moment in 1980 as then presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan demanded access to a Republican debate and at one point shouted at a moderator, "I am paying for this microphone."

In perhaps the most tense moment of the event, yet another man shouted that Romney should support scrapping the Social Security payroll cap.

"You want to raise taxes? You want to raise taxes," Romney shouted back at the man.


Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Mitt Romney
soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. NC

    The true Romney has appeared when put under presure from average Americans. No we don't like your answer and we will vote for someone else.

    August 11, 2011 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. aj

    The SS payroll cap means that the wealthy are not paying their fare share and yet they cry louder than anyone about overhauling SS. The problem is the successful in this country are only successful because they exploit the rest of us for their own personal gain. The wealthy have been practicing class warfare on the poor and middle class since the beginning of capitalism. The tide is turning in this country and the working class, which the wealthy have NEVER been apart of, are "mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore". Dylan Ratigan's rant was right on target as to what the REAL problem is in this country....GREED!

    August 11, 2011 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  3. vic

    Someone ask the "Job Creator" why he laid off people and sent their jobs overseas

    August 11, 2011 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. BD70

    Corporations are not people. People work at them but they are a money making entity. Corporations supply some discounts to benefits and a salary but the minute they aren't making a profit....the corporation will make the people in charge boot some workers out the door. No more pay and no more benefits.

    August 11, 2011 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  5. pn

    It is funny that what is good political ammunition for the democrats is Romney stating an obvious truth. I'm all for more progressive taxes, increased capital gains & dividend taxes, but this idea that "big corporations" are some evil entities that are not "people" is ridiculous. Sure, corporate bigwigs have a bigger share than the share of my pension fund, but that should be addressed via income taxes.

    August 11, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. Max

    If they care about people, since you say they are people, too, then why don't they open up their wallets like people do! Don't forget, it's people like us that made people like them, RICH! And by the way, are you making fun of people that are in the middle class or just plain poor? You don't look like your out of work.

    August 11, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  7. KatR

    Don't mess with the seniors Romney. We diapered your behind and wiped your nose when this country was not ruled by corporate groupies like you.

    August 11, 2011 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. Paul1st

    "You know there was a time in this country that we didn't celebrate attacking people based on their success. And we didn't go after people because they were successful." Romney is correct. And when these successful people were found to make employees work in deplorable conditions, or uses child labor, or sold worthless stock as solid investments, or destroyed natural resources, that's when stopped celebrating success alone.

    August 11, 2011 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. John

    And to Answer your Question about do I want you to rise Taxes. The Answer Is YES not only Yes but hell yes. You Republican giving the Rich and Big Business tax cut and tax subsides are not working and they are not Creating JOBS,all It doing Is making them Richer. You want to know what going to Creates JOBS, Than I will Tell you. And that the American People spending money, If we spend money than Business will run out of there product and will need more people to work. But first you Republican and Tea Party have to stop taking money from the American People and we need JOBS that You Republican Promise back when you ran on them In 2010. You are giving the Money to the wrong People. The Rich and Big Business are just going to keep It. Give It to people that need It and they will but stuff they need and everybody will win. The Business will make money and the rich will get richer and this will cause they to hiring more people. Your way hasn't work and never will work.

    August 11, 2011 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. T'sah from Virginia

    ["Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said. "Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people."]

    WTF????? What planet is he on? Jeez!!

    ["We're led by a man who's a fine fella. But he's out of his depth and doesn't understand how the economy works," Romney said.]

    You don't know how the economy works either, Romney. Your state was down and you begged S&P to raise your credit – BUT, that was only after you raised taxes to reach a "good" status – What is so difference now? You also passed Health Care for all – didn't you? My, what a FINE FELLA you are too!!!

    Obama/Biden 2012!!

    August 11, 2011 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    Hmmmmm .... corporations are people, huh? They aren't alive, they don't breathe, they don't eat, they don't poop ... no, corporations are business entities and the Citizens United case IS WRONG!

    BTW, the Citizens United case, in a highly unusual move, was personally brought before the Supreme Court by corporate lackey Chief Justice John Roberts, who should be impeached for lying under oath during his confirmation hearings by saying he would respect legal precedence and then with this case, overturned 100 YEARS OF LEGAL PRECEDENCE.

    August 11, 2011 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. commonsense

    All the money have, why do he look like he shops at Walmart.

    August 11, 2011 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Yes, Mitt is correct; afterall, the US Constitution does start, "We the Corporations ..."

    August 11, 2011 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  14. Voltairine

    “Corporations were given the rights of immortal persons. But then special kinds of persons, persons who had no moral conscience. These are a special kind of persons, which are designed by law, to be concerned only for their stockholders. And not, say, what are sometimes called their stakeholders, like the community or the work force or whatever.”

    - Avram Noam Chomsky

    August 11, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  15. Julie

    Hmmmm – be interesting how Romney does in Iowa. Sure gave the Dems some fodder.

    August 11, 2011 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  16. One of the little people

    It's shocking when what you believe about someone, being in the bag for corporations rather then the people, is actually verbally confirmed by the candidate.

    August 11, 2011 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. aa

    R.I.P Mitt Romney's chances of winning

    August 11, 2011 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  18. Bob in Boston

    Hey, give Mittens a break. When he says "Corporations are people" he's just speaking from his heart (stop that snickering!). And as we all know, corporation-people invest all their vast profits to create jobs (abroad), which is why all the tax breaks corporations and other mega-rich people got during the Bush years created enough jobs to prevent a recession, balance the budget, and create a national surplus! Oh...wait.

    August 11, 2011 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  19. Wanderer

    "Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said. "Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people."
    Mr. Romney! There is no proof that shows ‘Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people”, but the majority of Americans are seeing clearly that the corporation has not contributed to people. The corporate may be job creator, but all the jobs they created don’t exist in American. Most of the jobs the corporations created are in China and India, instead.

    August 11, 2011 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  20. Emerson

    Sounds like Romney is starting to come apart. Mitt, it's no longer "what is good for General Motors is good for the people" and Americans have finally wised up to see that this is turning into a class struggle. Corporations are not people, regardless of what the idiotic conservatives on the Supreme Court say.

    August 11, 2011 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  21. Sorensen

    No they are not, you flip-flopping spineless Bain consultant.
    Corporations are frequently faceless, irresponsible legal entities, behind which a bunch of greedy and horrible
    "managers" are hiding and doing their secret and corrupt acts that hurts normal people and society at large and
    make a few little bastards filthy rich.
    And you want to run this country?
    Forget it. Weird little man.

    August 11, 2011 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    ""Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people."

    Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to very very very few people.

    Fixed.

    August 11, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  23. Dan from Tx

    Romney's quote works on so many levels:
    "Drug dealers are people, my friend...Everything a drug dealer earns ultimately goes to people."
    "Child molesters are people, my friend...Everything a molester earns ultimately goes to people."
    "Socialists are people, my friend...Everything a socialists earns ultimately goes to people."

    See?? It works because it's always true!!!

    August 11, 2011 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  24. Publius Novus

    "Corporations are people?" Sounds like Mr. Mittens is very sympatico with the right wing of the SCOTUS. "Let's send some citizens to Washington?" What, are we back on the "birther" issue? Is Mr. Mittens suggesting that the people's representatives in Washington are not citizens? Is Mr. Mittens a citizen? We know his grandfather abandoned his American patriarchy for the pleasures of the flesh in Mexico. Mr. Mittens, if you are questioning anyone's citizenship, then let's see your long form!

    August 11, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "The man later identified himself as Joe Fagan, a 71-year old former Catholic priest. He is the founder of the liberal community activist group Citizens for Community Improvement. In the past, Fagan has similarly heckled other Republican politicians."

    That's right CNN...when a liberal does it, it's "heckling," but when right wing extremists do it it's a "grassroots uprising."

    Tell your advertising department and editors to go get bent.

    August 11, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
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