February 1st, 2012
12:51 PM ET
3 years ago

Romney says 'poor' comment needs context

(CNN) - Aboard his campaign charter plane Wednesday, Mitt Romney sought to clarify a remark he made earlier in the day on CNN about not being "concerned about the very poor" saying his words were being taken out of context.

Talking to CNN's Soledad O'Brien, Romney - perhaps ineloquently - explained his campaign's focus on the middle class, stating that there are programs to help the poor and the rich are doing well on their own.

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"I'm not concerned about the very poor," Romney said. "There's a safety net there, and if it needs repair I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the heart of America, the 95% of Americans who are right now struggling."

Responding to reporters' questions during the press availability on his plane, Romney made sure to put the quote in the correct context.

"No, no, no, no," Romney said. "You've got to take the whole sentence, all right, as opposed to saying, and then change it just a little bit, because then it sounds very different. I've said throughout the campaign my focus, my concern, my energy is gonna be devoted to helping middle income people, all right? We have a safety net for the poor in, and if there are holes in it, I will work to repair that. And if there are people that are falling through the cracks I want to fix that."

Romney explained further, saying his campaign has always been about helping the middle class.

"Wealthy people are doing fine," Romney said. "But my focus in the campaign is on middle income people. Of course I'm concerned about all Americans - poor, wealthy, middle class, but the focus of my effort will be on middle income families who I think have been most hurt by the Obama economy."

Romney conceded there were holes in the safety net for poor Americans, and acknowledged it was the government's responsibility to help find the systems' deficiencies.

"I'm sure there are places where people fall between the cracks," Romney said. "And finding those places is one of the things that is the responsibility of government. We do have a very ample safety net in America, with Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps, earned income tax credit. We have a number of ways of helping the poor. And yet my focus and the area that I think is the greatest challenge that the country faces right now is not, is not to focus our effort on how we help the poor as much as to focus our effort on how to help the middle class in America, and get more people in the middle class and get people out of being poor and becoming middle income."

Romney has made the point on the trail over the past several months that his campaign is focused on helping middle class Americans find jobs rather than helping poor Americans who he says already have plenty of help. Romney hadn't gone as far as saying he was "not concerned" about the poor.

Campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the state's primary, Romney actually said he was concerned about the poor, before reiterating that his campaign wasn't focused on wealthy people.

"I'm concerned about the poor in this country," Romney said on January 13. "We have to make sure the safety net is strong and able to help those who cannot help themselves. I'm not terribly worried about the wealthiest in our society. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the vast middle class in our nation, the 90% or 95% of Americans who are having tough times."

Rivals, both Democratic and Republican, have long attempted to paint Romney as out-of-touch, given his wealth and career as a private equity executive. Romney has responded by saying he won't apologize for his success, pointing out his experience in the private sector taught him about job creation.

CNN's Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

Also see:

Romney: Convention or bust

Santorum looks past Florida

New anti-Obama ad slams Solyndra 'fiasco'

Romney to receive Secret Service protection


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (349 Responses)
  1. lillith70

    Hey dummies who only read headlines, Romney added, If it (the safety met) needs repair, I will fix it.

    February 1, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "it's unclear to me how he is going to help the economy produce jobs anyway."

    Weren't you listening when the GOP/Teatrolls told you? The answer is simple: MAGIC! Making the rich even richer magically creates jobs, dontcha know?

    February 1, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  3. Ronald

    He isn't concerned because the GOP has been making sure that they can put as many obstacles in their way when it comes to voting as they can. Not caring is common with the GOP.

    February 1, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. riker

    Romney is right on the money. This country is built on free market capitalism with a safety net for the poor. Idiot Libs on the comment stream are outraged because Romney does not want a cradle to grave welfare state.....the kind that's bankrupting Europe now.

    Romney ought to stop talking about classes altogether and focus on the limited government that provides equal opportunity for all to move to higher wealth brackets. And the fact that trillion dollar deficits will be racked up by this president every year he has been in office.....this and his enviro-extremism concerning pipeline XL are continued drags on the economy.

    Contrast this with our socialist prez who just stokes class envy of the rich and bashes business constantly. The gal named Peggy who was thrilled voting for Obama because she would get help with her mortgage and gas payments will get what she wants until the entire system crashes under it's own debt.

    February 1, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    If Flipper is so concerned bout the poor and middle class, why does his tax plan favor the wealthy?

    February 1, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  6. Lynda/Minnesota

    What was it Mittens said in one of the debates? "I'm consistent"...or some such thing? Yeah. Everytime he opens his mouth he has to come back to the table three or four times to put "into context" what he meant to say. Getting to be a real drag for him. No wonder it's taken him 6 years of continual campaigning to get as far as he has.

    February 1, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  7. gg

    just another republican that would like the poor -working poor low wages and all the food stamps you can carry–and the middle class who,s jobs have been sent over seas to just go away–if you want to great more poor vote republican

    February 1, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  8. SDKevin

    I don't cut politicians much slack, and I'm not fond of Mitt Romney, but he deserves a break on this one. In context, his comment is COMPLETELY rational and reasonable (based of course on how it is presented at cnn.com, yahoo.com, foxnews.com, and on the AP).

    February 1, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  9. brian in denver

    Romney is a dismissive fool & w/ any luck will come nowhere near the White House.

    February 1, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. jk from MN

    How anyone who is not part of the 1% can even think this man who be a good leader for this country needs to think. He does not have a clue about main street Americans' sturuggles are. I can't wait to see how Jon Stewart assesses this. This man is scarier than Newt to me and that's quite an accomplishment, Mitt.

    February 1, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. NVa Native

    Interesting how the rightists love to make excuses for Romoney and his continual blurting of awkward and foolish statements. But at the same time always attack the President by hearing things he doesn't say.
    For example the rightists always claim “the President promised them that un-employment wouldn't get above 8%” – which is a blatant lie. The President never promised anything, only a GOP would be dumb enough to promise something they have no control over.
    Like Romoney declaring that "Iran would never get the bomb if I am President", and of course we will never know because he will never be President. If anyone needs a teleprompter it’s Romoney, … & Gingeritch, Cain, Satanorum, Palin, Chuckabee, …….pretty much all of the GOPers.

    February 1, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. Orchid333

    Even in context I'm a bit concerned... I mean, shouldn't the POTUS be concerned about ALL Americans? Rich, poor and everything in between? I think this is a deep divide between Romney and Obama. It's great for Romney to say that he's concerned about the Middle Class, but to say that he's not concerned about the rich means he won't touch them (ie. won't consider raising their taxes?) and not being concerned about the poor means he'd probably be open to cutting programs that help them. Nope, don't like.

    February 1, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. F-Gingrich

    I think Romney is the most "taken out of context" candidate in Presidential politics history! He will say whatever he has to to win the nomination. He will never be President. He's so out of touch he really doesn't realize how much America really can't stand him. The only time you can stomach Mittens is when he's on stage with the other Three Stooges.

    February 1, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  14. Henry Miller

    "Aboard his campaign charter plane Wednesday, Mitt Romney sought to..."

    CNN's inclusion of that adjective no doubt meant to highlight the the elitism of a man who charters aeroplanes.

    New flash: When a group of people are travelling together, it's frequently cheaper to charter a plane than to buy a whole bunch of tickets.

    February 1, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  15. lucy2

    I've read the full comment in its entirety, and it still doesn't come off good for him.

    He may be a smart guy who did well in his own life, but he seems to be completely out of touch with the vast majority of the country. I don't think he has any idea what sort of struggles the middle class is actually facing, and definitely no concept of what it means to be "very poor".

    February 1, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  16. FactCheck

    Can you afford to make a casual $10,000 bet? No? Then you are poor and on your own, as per Mitt.

    February 1, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  17. DB

    Hey Mr Romney,,,,The goal is to get the poor moved into the Middle class...
    And your lack of concern, explaines why you so against government programs that is aimed at protecting and aiding the poor....nuff said!

    February 1, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  18. DB

    Figures coming from a man who is the 1%.

    February 1, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. Ivan

    Most of the comments postedon here are made by people that hear what they want to hear and they hate romney where he does this or whether he does that. Good luck with the brainwashing, it's obviously being somewhat effective.

    February 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. The Real Tom Paine

    I did see the interview, stephen. What I saw was a clumsy answer from Romney. If I were a registered Republican, I would be very worried that my frontrunner ( who has been running for the job for almost 6 years)keeps serving up gaffes on an hourly basis that can be taken out of context, exactly as Romney took Obama's words out of context from 2008 when he created a very misleading ad. Its Election Year coverage, get over it.

    February 1, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  21. Lulu0826

    When you listen to Romney, I get the impression that he wants to be President just for the sake of being President, I don't get the feeling that doing the job is that important to him. He just say anything with no conviction whatsoever. At least, with Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, you get a feeling that these guys truly believe in what they say. Mitt Romney just go whichever way the wind blows. The man has NO SUBSTANCE whatsoever....NONE....ZERO. He is like an inflatible doll. Just filled with air. He is truly an empty perspn.

    February 1, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. sparknut

    Those of us who live in Massachusetts knew him well and are not surprised. He tried to privatize all kinds of services to the mentally ill and developmentally disabled and those poor people suffered for it. Many of the holes in the safety net were made by people like Mitt. The wealthy are doing just fine thanks to W's tax cuts for the rich. And the only concern he has for the middle class is to try to con them into voting for him.

    February 1, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  23. Lulu0826

    When you listen to Romney, I get the impression that he wants to be President just for the sake of being President, I don't get the feeling that doing the job is that important to him. He just say anything with no conviction whatsoever. At least, with Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, you get a feeling that these guys truly believe in what they say. Mitt Romney just go whichever way the wind blows. The man has NO SUBSTANCE whatsoever....NONE....ZERO. He is like an inflatible doll. Just filled with air. He is truly an empty perspn.

    February 1, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. Dave

    Give me a break! Can't Romney or any other Republican ever take responsibility for anything? He said it. There was no "out of context" and Romney is just trying weasel out of a remark he made that shows how he really feels.

    By the way, he seems to have no problem taking others' words out of context when it meets his purposes. He's just acting like the spoiled, petulant brat that he really is.

    February 1, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. 101st

    safety net for the poor? I hope Romney doesn't think that's similar to the $100 million trust fund safety net that he has set up for his poor unemployed sons.

    February 1, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
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