Bedford, New Hampshire (CNN) - Mitt Romney became the latest target of a fast-paced political sound-bite culture Monday, when a remark he made was widely mocked by his rivals in campaign speeches and on the internet.
In a speech to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce, Romney said he wanted Americans to be able to switch insurance companies if they were unhappy with their service.
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"I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," he said. "You know, if someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say 'You know, I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.'"
Romney's rivals pounced on seven words of that speech: "I like being able to fire people."
Team Romney was equally quick to call foul, saying the remarks were taken out of context. But at least part of the problem for Romney may be that he said those words at all - as they feed the already common criticism from his opponents that he is an aloof businessman.
The Democratic National Committee released a derisive web video and called Romney "out of touch." The campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry looped Romney's words to make a cell phone ring tone that quickly went viral.
On the trail, many of Romney's GOP rivals used the candidate's words to further another line of attack: that Romney was a high-flying corporate executive who profited from failed companies.
The Romney campaign pushed back vehemently against the attacks, which quickly became the biggest political story of the day, and argued the mockery was irresponsible and unfair.
So what exactly did Romney say?
Here is the full quote, which Romney gave in response to an audience question about health care:
"I want people to be able to own their own insurance if they wish to, and to buy it for themselves and perhaps keep it the rest of their life, and to choose among different policies offered from companies across the nation. I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means that if you don't like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say 'You know, I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.' So, that's one thing I would change."
Asked whether Romney regretted his phrasing, Communications Director Gail Gitcho responded by e-mail: "Of course not."
Comments that campaigns say are out-of-context have hurt politicians before. Sen. John Kerry was successfully painted as a flip-flopper after saying: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it" in regards to a wartime funding bill.
Kerry was talking about arcane Senate procedure, but his explanation got lost in the wash and his opponents gleefully exploited the stumble.
And the Romney campaign itself was faulted earlier in the year for taking President Obama's words out of context in a campaign ad.
Romney's first campaign commercial showed then-candidate Obama quoting Sen. John McCain - but neglected to explain Obama was quoting.
In response to the ensuing controversy, Romney senior adviser told The Boston Globe the Democrats' furious response to the ad was "hysterical."
–CNN Political Correspondent Jim Acosta contributed to this report.
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