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. Guest

    So, is this man now trying to create "class warfare" by separating the middle class from the poor?

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

    Can you say Flip Flop?

    February 1, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. Mitt's grass is green because it's cash.

    Mitt, I challenge you to live on the average monthly food stamp allotment for a whole 30 days. I challenge you to retain your dignity as you use Medicaid to pay for your doctor appts. I challenge you to walk in the shoes of the voting poor who don't necessarily want handouts but just want to survive day to day. Don't access your bank accounts. Don't use your petty cash. Live the life of another before you judge.

    February 1, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  4. guest

    He is completely out of touch with reality. If 95% of Americans are middle class, and the rich are about 5%, I guess he's right, we don't have a poor class so we shouldn't be concerned about them.

    February 1, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  5. Jim

    The Republicans just can not help themselves. As hard as they try, they eventually put their foot in their mouths, and say what they really feel.

    February 1, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  6. george

    Mitt is soundind like a "white Obama".

    February 1, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  7. Bobby

    Let's be honest: This remark was totally taken out of context. I will vote again for President Obama in November, but, of all the comments Mr. Romney has said or will say, this one is a poor excuse for trying to find fault with someone.

    February 1, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  8. talbet

    A guy who's campaigning and would be the richest president in history might want to watch his words concerning the poor a bit more carefully.

    February 1, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  9. Dan, TX

    Does Romney think there are holes in the safety net? Either he doesn't know (really?) or he's simply not telling us that he thinks the poor are doing just fine and don't need any more help because the safety net of government hand-outs is not only enough – maybe there's too much of it and it needs to be cut.

    February 1, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. dakster

    Gosh Mr. Romney, you say the poor have a "safety net", that "safety net" is a combinations of all the things you plan to cut as President, medicare, medicaid, social security, etc......in order to NOT raise taxes for the millionaire club, plus. So much for your so called "safety net. No you do plan to concentrate on the poor. Your first 100% accurate and honest answer this political season!!!!!!

    February 1, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  11. mike

    for all of you saying this was taken out of context and to "get over it", even the full statement and explanation is still ridiculous !!!! he context is just as bad as his original statement!!!!!

    February 1, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  12. Chris Roesel

    In South Carolina, Romney replied, when asked what he would do for the 99% of us who are not rich, that the questioner was trying to divide America. Now, he is for the 95% (or is it 84%?) who are in the middle class, but he is not worried about the poor. He now, after SC, claims that he is for the 99% minus the 15% who are poor. He may be slow, he may make major mistakes, but he slowly tries to recapture major sections of the population after he tells us where he really stands. Soon, he will probably claim he is for the poor. As he did when he was asked why he took the Obama quotation without the prelude of, "As John McCain said," he will probably ssy lying about whom he will help is good for the gander, and he will do it with a smile. Does anyone believe him? He lies glibly once he is told what a mistake he has made in tellling his latest truth.

    February 1, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  13. Jamie from Riverside

    You know, Mittens, the very poor also vote...just not for you.

    February 1, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. mike

    The Poor have sucky lobbyists!!!!!

    February 1, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  15. i want a mega rich Mormon who hides money overseas, and a master tax evader as president

    i pray Richie rich gets the nomination.

    February 1, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. Leslie

    Romney will be President – because he is a businessman and that's exactly what America needs and the people know it.

    February 1, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  17. rich owens

    Whether this is taken out of context or not, this is what Romney means: By not focusing on the poor due to their safety nets that are getting squeezed, he is implying that his plan is not to alleviate poverty in America but to but to keep "The Poor , poor and the rich rich" what he dosent realize is that the middle class is the poor.As a President, his focus should be on all americans, rich, middle class and the poor. The american dream is realised when the poor gets to the middle class and the middle class gets to be rich.I dont have a JD or harvard degree but I can campaign better than this guy. He has poor communication and people skills

    February 1, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  18. ja

    this man is on mars, the media flashed an image of mitt doing laundry, yeah right, the gop is about exclusion, and love the 99% that think themselves as gop material, and vote republican

    February 1, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  19. marvin anderson

    democrats are obviously scared to death of mitt romney,he is the perfect candidate to beat obama.because he will run strong in virginia,north caolina,and florida,not to mention ohio,and michigan.because the truth of the matter is obama is in over his head and people do not despise the rich but they secretly envy and desire to follow them,look at trump.bill gates .sports athletes.and entertainers.all having huge followers.liberals are desparately trying to find something to hold him back but it wont work......he will win the election because the rich always get what they want,even Jesus says the poor you have with you always.

    February 1, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  20. Paganini

    That's right...you've got to put the quote in it's correct context. As someone else mentioned, kind of like when he ran the ad where Pres. Obama said "If we keep talking about the economy, we'll lose..." using only half his sentence.

    They are trying to coach him up on what programs actually exist for the poor – he is so out of touch with the common man. Quick, someone ask him how much a gallon of milk costs. I bet his anwer would be comical.

    February 1, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  21. bklyn joe

    What is wrong with what he said? He is right. Free housing, free medical care, free college, food stamps, have as many babies as you want, it's paid for.

    I'm miiddle class. I'm suffering in this economy. No govt. help for me.

    February 1, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  22. Devil's Advocate

    This is what I heard come out of Romney's mouth (paraphrased)..." I'm not concerned with the very poor because they already have a safety net".....nothing taken out of context there, is it?? I heard that he isn't concerned about the very poor, and then I heard the reason why he isn't concerned about the very poor. Not out of context, right?

    Here's the deal, though....the Republicans in Congress, driven by the TP followers of their spiritual leader, Grover Norquist, and backed financially by the 1%'ers lead by the Koch Brothers, are dead set on the total elimination of the very safety nets that Romney spoke about. Am I to understand from his statement earlier that Romney will buck his own party and not only keep the safety net in place, but shore it up so that people don't fall through the cracks??

    I don't think so!!

    February 1, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  23. once upon a horse

    if ANYBODY should know about taking words out of context, it's Mitt Romney. Isn't he the one that said "what's good for the goose" when he did it to Obama a few months back?

    February 1, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  24. Tony

    Mitt: Middle class I need your vote and once in office he'll tell you to bend over for the rich.

    February 1, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. bklyn joe

    What is wrong with what he said? He is right. Free housing, free medical care, free college, food stamps, have as many babies as you want, it's paid for.

    I'm miiddle class. I'm suffering in this economy. No govt. help for me.

    February 1, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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