September 17th, 2012
10:50 PM ET
2 years ago

Controversial private fund-raiser video shows candid Romney

On Tuesday, Mother Jones released the full tape of Romney's fund-raising, totally nearly 50 minutes. Watch the tape here.

(CNN) – Mitt Romney on Monday said his controversial statements caught on tape were "off the cuff" and "not elegantly stated," but he defended the main message of his remarks.

Romney took three questions in a brief press conference with pool reporters late Monday night in California, scheduled at the last minute in response to the release of secretly recorded video of the candidate speaking at a private fund-raiser in May.

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The video quickly caught fire as potentially damaging material to the Republican presidential nominee.

In the footage, taped with a hidden camera, Romney argued nearly half of Americans will vote for President Barack Obama because they rely on government support, made apparent jokes about wishing he had Latino heritage, and talks about a Chinese factory his former firm purchased.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in one clip. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates that for tax year 2011, 46% of households will end up owing nothing in federal income taxes. But if payroll taxes are counted, the number of non-payer households drops precipitously - to an estimated 18% in 2011.

Adding to his argument about entitlement, Romney said his "job is not to worry about those people."

"I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," he added. "What I have to do is convince the 5 percent to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful."

The videos were posted Monday afternoon on the left-leaning news websites The Huffington Post and Mother Jones. The person responsible for the footage said he or she wishes to remain anonymous for "professional reasons and to avoid a lawsuit," according to the Huffington Post. Furthermore, the video was altered dramatically - but retains the audio from the event - to mask the location and date of the fund-raiser with high-dollar donors.

Appearing on MSNBC late Monday night, the author of the Mother Jones article, David Corn, said the event took place May 17 in Boca Raton, Florida, at the home of Sun Capital executive Marc Leder.

Romney, in his press conference Monday night, said he could have stated his original comments "more clearly" but said he was trying to point out the differences between the two campaigns.

"We have a very different approach - the president and I - between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams," Romney said.

As for why he spoke more candidly with the group of donors, Romney said he was addressing some concerns at the fund-raiser.

"At a fundraiser you have people say, 'Governor how are you going to win this?' And so I respond 'Well, the president has his group, I have my group. I want to keep my team strong and motivated and I want to get those people in the middle.' That's something which fund-raising people who are parting with their monies are very interested in," Romney said.

He also called on the unidentified individual to release the entire video, rather than "snippets."

Shortly after reports began to surface about the video, campaign spokesman Rick Gorka said the campaign will allow pool reporters to film some fund-raisers beginning Tuesday. Previously, reporters were allowed into some of the events but were not permitted to use cameras. Events in private residences will still be closed to press.

When the campaign released a statement in response to the issue later Monday, it did not directly mention the videos.

"Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney's plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs," Gail Gitcho, Romney's communications director, said in the statement.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus defended Romney on Monday, saying the nominee was simply describing the "monstrosity" of government.
"The point of all of this is that the size of government is too big, and if we don't do something about it we're going to really lose the very idea of America," Priebus said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

He added: "I don't have the numbers in front of me but clearly what we do have, very clearly, is a government and a society here in this country that is becoming dependent."
Also at the event, Romney joked he would be more successful in his White House bid if his father were actually Latino, rather than having been born in Mexico to missionary parents from the United States.

"My dad, as you probably, know was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico ... and, uh, had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this," Romney said. "But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico.... I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

The tape came the same day as Romney addressed the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles as he continues to court Latino voters, which have largely signaled they would fall in Obama's column in November. According to a recent Gallup poll, Obama leads Romney among Latino registered voters 64%-27%.

Obama's campaign quickly seized on the reports Monday, calling Romney's comments "shocking."

"It's shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as 'victims,' entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take 'personal responsibility' for their lives. It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation," said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in a statement.

In another part of the video, Romney says he was visiting a Chinese factory during his tenure as chief executive of Bain Capital, a private equity firm.

"When I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there," Romney is heard saying. "It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married."

The GOP nominee goes on to detail the conditions he saw, including workers squeezed into dormitory-style housing, and a fence topped by barbed wire circling the factory.

Romney says when he asked the factory's bosses about the fence, they told him it was meant to keep people out, rather than in, as people were clamoring to come and work at the plant, which Romney said was manufacturing small appliances.

Romney concludes his story by recalling words from a fellow employee of Bain.
"The Bain partner I was with turned to me and said, you know, 95 percent of life is settled if you are born in America," Romney is heard saying on the tape.

A source familiar with Bain's investment history says the firm itself did not buy the factory referred in the video, but could not say whether the factory was owned by a company in which Bain later invested. The Boston Globe reported in 1998 that a Bain subsidiary, Brookside Capital Partners Fund, had invested in a Global Tech, a company with factories in China.

Obama's re-election campaign cited the video Monday while touting the president's newly filed trade complaint against China, which alleges China has illegally subsidized automotive exports and undercut American suppliers.

Romney, in a statement, called the trade complaint "too little, too late," asserting the president's "credibility on this issue has long since vanished."

Obama, himself, was caught in a secret camera moment in 2008, when he was recorded at a private fund-raiser saying that some voters "cling to their guns and religion." At the time, Republicans quickly pounced on the comment and now Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, uses the quote against the president on the campaign trail.

"This Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged and proud to say so," Ryan said Monday at a campaign event in Iowa. "That's just weird. Who says things like that? That's just strange."

– CNN's Ashley Killough, Jim Acosta, Rachel Streitfeld, Kevin Liptak, and Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Fundraising • Mitt Romney
soundoff (456 Responses)
  1. bill.x

    Unbelievable – This is the new Republican Party speaking. 47% of us are good for nothing freeloaders. He is not talking just about the poor – which are a fraction of the 47% he is talking about – he talking about 47% of Americans – Democrat, Republican or Independent!!!

    September 17, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  2. Chris

    This is no surprise to me. His goal is simply to win the game, whatever it takes.

    September 17, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  3. AmericanWaxwing

    Finally, some TRUTH. I'm voting for Romney this November.

    September 17, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  4. Middle Class President Obama Supporter

    What a disgusting egomaniac Romney is. I support President Obama and worked for 45 years. I paid and pay taxes, bought a house, put my kids through college. I knew it was something about Romney that is phony and know he has proven it. Romney has written off half of our citizens by his remarks. I can only imagine what would happen if he were ever to become our President.

    September 17, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  5. Farrok

    Mitt Romney can go to He**..........................

    September 17, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  6. babooph

    As a Latino,he would lose his angry old white guy bigot vote,you would think a guy who was to become a God would see that?

    September 17, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  7. fire0bama

    What Gov. Romney said is very true. I agree with him completely.

    There is nothing more important than personal responsibility in our life and society.

    0bama is an empty suit who is only good at telling lies and fooling people, and never telling the truth.

    Vote 0bama out in Nov. 2012!

    September 17, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  8. pjh

    And this is a surprise to anyone? Anyone that dug a little beneath the surface it was clear who this guy was and who mattered to him....

    September 17, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  9. Regressive

    Absolutely stunning. There is no question that Romney wants the presidency to help pave the way to continue the republicans plan of redistributing the wealth of this country to himself and his buddie. He doesn't give a crap about the plight of the poor or average Americans.

    Romney has made numerous political blunders during his campaign and we just can not afford a President this politically inept to make a huge foreign affairs blunder, he would be just the guy to take us into a WWIII. No thanks. You just sealed the deal dude... Adios hermano

    September 17, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  10. Al

    Every news organization but Fox News covering this story....thats odd ;)

    September 17, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  11. timz

    At least Romney is finally revealing details of his economic plan (just not publicly) . . . "workers squeezed into dormitory-style housing, and a fence topped by barbed wire circling the factory."

    I guess he's just being honest, but how does a candidate for President come right out and say he's not going to worry about 47% of Americans? I think in law that would be called a "statement against penal interest" and given extra weight against the defendant (unlike any self-serving and self-aggrandizing statements a co-defendant might make . . . like "I ran the marathon in under 3 hours", which are generally dismissed as unreliable).

    September 17, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  12. American

    Half-Americans really do rely on government aid, it's a candid statement that's true.. Democrat's know it too, people that depend on well-fare and food assistance depend on Obama getting reelected.

    September 17, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  13. drjmng

    Nothing wrong with what Romney said. It's the truth. Voters for Obama tend to be those that think government is what will uplift them. Voters for Romney think that individuals uplift themselves. Obama's off mic comment to that Russian president is far more revealing and far worse than this.

    September 17, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  14. RB Wolff

    Every so often there are those wonderful golden moments in a campaign when a candidate's true character is revealed, all the self-serving fear based rhetoric is swept aside and voters can finally make an informed choice.There is something to be said for living in a democracy with a free press. Well, I guess it's curtains for Romney & Ryan Incorporated. Rest In Peace. Who really wanted to return to another four to eight years of 'disaster capitalism' and endless armed conflict. Once in a generation is enough.

    September 17, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  15. sad

    Obama had made about 15 trade complaints and 9 or 10 of them were on China. When Obama put tariff on Chinese goods in 2009, Romney complained that it was not trhe right thing to do!

    September 17, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  16. Bob jones

    You heard it folks. Mit Romney couldn't care less about the fate of 47 percent of Americans. At least he is willing to be honest. The rest of the GOP of course feels the same way but they won't say so out loud.

    September 17, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  17. jwalkman

    I'm working class and so are all of my friends. I've told most of them many times that "Romney ain't for you." Its kinda vindicating to hear it come out of the mouth of the man himself. I'm beginng to think Obama is heading toward of landslide victory of Reagan/Mondale proportions.

    September 17, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  18. Jorge UU Boosh

    From a guy whose RICH DADDY paid his way at every step in his life! WHAT A JOKE!

    September 17, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    I plan to vote for Obama and I don't rely on government for any of those things.

    September 17, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  20. rene kerr

    Really? Not one comment in response to such information? People, please, does this finally help you to understand what's going on here?The man doesn't give a crap about half the country. And I reside in that half. Where do you stand? Do you really believe people don't deserve the right to health care or food or a decent home? We work hard and still need help. Shouldn't we be able to get it? Shouldn't you? And as a Christian, I would gladly share all I have with my brother. With no conditions.

    September 17, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  21. LD

    Wow..good job robme.

    September 17, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  22. fullclarity

    Not that Mitt ever had much credibility.

    September 17, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  23. Pk duster

    I have seen how hard spanish people work in fast food places put miu to work there he would cry why not try to get along with china you hate monger

    September 17, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  24. kathy/Minnesota

    Well,well,well mittens has really stepped in it this time, to be laughinly explaining, how he could care less about 47% of the country is shameful.So if he is our President he won't give a crap about half of us.....and sadly I know where myself and my loved ones stand.

    September 17, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  25. SarahTonin

    and if Mitt could somehow change his heritage, he would do it. Anything to be President! If there ever was a chameleon, Mitt fits!

    September 17, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
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