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. gordyb

    Mitt keeps making promises he can't keep or won't keep if elected. In his speech last night he said he would make the USA the most powerful country in the world...it already is. He now says he will fix the safety net...like we believe that. He will say ANYTHING to get elected. He has no moral courage for pretending to be moral. He has taken word smithing to a new level. His tax proposal is all about the rich..yet he is now for the middle class. I can't wait until he has to debate the President face to face.

    February 1, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. suzette donovan

    mr. romney, i read your entire "speech". i understand what you said and i back you 100%.

    February 1, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Holes in the safety net? "We'll patch those up [wink wink]...by making rich people like me so excessively rich that we suddenly don't want to hold onto all our riches with a death grip...don't worry, promise it'll work this time!!!"

    Holes in the tax code? "I'm sorry...what holes? Oh, THOSE holes? Those don't need patching. Excuse me for a moment. Yes, Ms. Secretary, can you get my accountant in the Caymans on the phone please?"

    February 1, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. wonderabout

    YEP, Republican's this is all you have.... I've said it and I've heard it repeated before – but a LOT more lately.... The average U.S. Citizen isn't rich enough to vote for Republicans – they don't care about the poor and Mitt sure as hell cares NOTHING for the middle class – unless it is to bamboozle them into thinking he is working for them.... The man is a shallow, well groomed puppet for the corporate profiteers. The people who have made water, dirt and even air (read REDD, REDD+, carbon markets, carbon trading) into commodities to trade and make profits from. The Earth and all the resources here aren't commodities they are or should be free to all – the commons, nothing more common than water, and air.... You people over there with the tin foil hats, sippin' the pretty purple drink – you think the world is upside down now and that you are immune from the raping and pillaging of our earth? Think again, you will soon be just another road block on the path to hell.

    February 1, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. QS

    "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."

    What complete and utter crap! I'd trust any of the things Mitt Romney says about as much as I'd trust Newt to not be a hypocrite.

    February 1, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "So strange, but I find myself really liking his awkward honesty. Should I feel bad for agreeing with him?"

    Nope. What you should feel bad about is believing he's being honest.

    February 1, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. betterdays

    I'm becoming less and less concerned about the very poor all the time. I think perhaps it's time to help people who are willing to pitch in with a little of their OWN effort, not the people who always seem to come up with poorly articulated reasons not to try harder. (Like, "The man is keeping me down, bro.")

    February 1, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. Beverly - NYC

    Wow Mittens had a moment of truth there while gloating about your Fl win huh. Since more Americans are falling from the middle class to the poor category, where exactly are the safety nets of which you speak. Republicans don't like unemployment, food stamps , Social Security, medicare. So much for being a uniter huh Mitt, Thanks Florida for proping up this empty suit.

    February 1, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. GrogInOhio

    HAH... so taking words out of context is bad when it happens to Romney, but the same taken from Obama serve as campaign talking points by Romney against Obama. It's OK if you're a Republican.

    February 1, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. Squigman

    Here's a comment, and the context is bright and clear. I'll vote for Mitt. when hell freezes over.

    February 1, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  11. collins Robert

    Mitten knows that his repug buddies have nearly ceased the poor ability to vote

    February 1, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  12. Justlove

    Republicans + Corporations are people= Greed. On a much more serious note, they expect Romney to win the nomination but when they already know that he cannot connect with the people. They will also love to see a Newt VS the President, when they also know, he can only connect with the tea baggers, haters and the moooooners..lol...Rick, what can I say about the former senator, Nothing at all...I don't know why, he is still in the race..Paul, my man...Keep preaching, we already know you are not running for president.

    February 1, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  13. Donkey Party

    JoAmerican @ 1:30pm -

    Actually, the facts are that taxes are at their lowest in 50 years, and companies are doing the best they have done in recent memory. Another fact is that you are clearly a Fox News watching idiot.

    February 1, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  14. jms58

    Romney is so far from reality that he will never be able to relate to the middle class or anyone else except the bery rich.

    February 1, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  15. bppack

    who knows what he said! I couldn't tell listening to it the first time. he tries so hard to be everything to everybody, no one really knows what he really thinks. and all the stuttering when he's nervous just makes it worse. this guy will never be able to make a decision in crunch time.

    February 1, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Loren, Keene NH

    okay Dems...you all have Joe Biden...should we use every thing he says against him? Enough said!

    Romney was speaking (for those of us who can understand) about the Welfare system and food stamps and Medicaid that the states have IF you are among "the poor". I am middle class and have no children...I don't get Earned Income Credits...I don't get anything for my "hope and change vote" 4 years ago...

    I am independant and I am going to the other side this time (unless Hillary jumps in)!

    In the meantime...drop all the phoney shock and listen to what is being said, you might learn something about Obama!!!

    February 1, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  17. vatoloke

    What is your position du jour, Mittens?

    February 1, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  18. Paul Price

    Mitt says he does not care about the poor, then flip-flops and says he does. He is a danger to everything and everyone with whom he comes in contact. His concern, like the entire GOP, is the BIG businesses...the so-called "job creators" who create nothing despite multi-billion dollar quarterly earnings. Thank goodness, President Obama will whip him in November and Romney's mindless statements will mean nothing

    February 1, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. Publius Novus

    I always thought that "businessmen" had good communication skills. What were they teaching at Harvard B School when Willard was there?

    February 1, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. carlo

    When someone tells you who they are, believe them.

    February 1, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  21. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on US!

    What an elitist hypocrite! His party's trademarked policy is "We care only for the greedy, not the needy." His GOBP deathcult has been on the rampage to destroy the safety net. Rmoney himself has endorsed the Ryan plan, which would shred the safety net. If he makes these statements, without retracting his endorsement of Ryan's plan, or without calling out his own party for their mean-spirited attacks on the poor, then Rmoney the Elitist Robot is a liar and a hypocrite. Which we knew before, anyway.

    February 1, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. GonzoinHouston

    I pretty much agree with the conservatives on this one. His words are being taken 'way out of context here. I also think he's lying when he says he'll address problems in the social safety net. Just about every economic position he has favored would make the net weaker and the holes bigger. He's also right about the importance of the middle class to the economy, but again, everything he has proposed would make things worse for them.

    February 1, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  23. Jimm

    Wealthy people are doing fine," Romney said. "But my focus in the campaign is on middle income people.
    --------
    Then why is he cutting taxes for the wealthy and cutting programs that help the poor and middle class?

    February 1, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  24. PeteyP

    Geez, looking back, Kanye West got off easy when he said that George Bush doesn't care about black people.

    February 1, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  25. abtime

    This is the real Mitt Romney. I can imagine his staff having a hissy fit when he let these off the cuff remarks about the poor slip through his lips. The problem with the mouth is that it discloses what's in your heart when the brain takes the brakes off of it.

    February 1, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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