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. john

    romney is right, on all counts. go watch the videos.

    September 17, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  2. Neil M.

    Mitt hates Latinos.

    September 17, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  3. gregrustin

    My dad was a Baptist Preacher, so I was raised around alot of religious stuff. it was ok, but I was never enthralled by it. however, there were alot of conversations on different religions. one comes to mind recently when I saw an article on mormonism. the writer asked me to google "lying for the lord". WOW. the premise is that its ok to lie a little in order to advance the greater good. i dont argue whether its right or wrong, but the premise explains PERFECTLY why Mitt flip/flops. in his mind the greater good is winning the whitehouse, so he sees no problem telling you in 2004 that he is pro choice and now in debates that he is "severely conservative". to him he only needs to give you "milk before meat"....as in just enough info so you can like him and vote for him. what a revelation. therefore, the GOP has been deceived by a candidate who sees no problem "lying for the whitehouse". Congrats Repubs, your candidate is the "father of lies"

    September 17, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  4. beau

    I used to be a repub till congress was taken over by the tea party and Romney as our candidate.I cannot support a man who is a draft dodger and a tax evader.The repub congress has done nothing for vets,nothing for the middleclass.All of the good repubs have gone or have been forced out by the extremists that care nothing for the average joe or veterans like myself.Until we get real candidates that care for the middleclass and vets I will not vote for the repubs.Honor and respect,and caring for this nation is what the repubs used to stand for ,now we have wackjobs from the tea party holding america hostage and thats as un patriotic as it gets,it is hurting many americans,our economy and soldiers who are looking for work. Romney is not the answer he is the problem with America with his lies and phony religion...Sorry this voter will stay an ex repub till the party becomes honerable again.

    September 17, 2012 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  5. dr zaius

    Dr. Zaius will chime in right after finishing this banana. It is delicious.

    September 17, 2012 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  6. Lynda/Minnesota

    I wonder how long it will take low and middle income Republicans to understand that Mitt Romney was including "them" in his "those people" condemnations?

    September 17, 2012 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  7. RyanBdallas

    The video only confirms to the American people what they suspected all along. Romney has never been genuine and his appeal for the top spot stems from his personal desires for wealth and power, not empathy toward the American people and the betterment of the nation.

    September 17, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  8. Brian

    Well this proves it. Mitt hates us because we are poorer than him... he must envy us.

    September 17, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  9. mjw

    He is not done making a fool of himself ...there will be more....because everybody knows this man has no core conviction but self promotion. He does not care what he says, he is just pandering to anyone to get that 51%. He is a loser , so let him continue with those negative advertisment that no one is watching, we can expect more because he is getting desparate.

    I voted for President Obama and will vote for him and have never had a hand out from government. I would never vote for Romney /Ryan if my life depends on it.

    September 17, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  10. Mark Paslay

    So is Romney flip flopping on his heritage? Speaking to the crowd in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney compared his father's story to those of countless other immigrants who have come to this country seeking economic opportunity.
    My grandfather, a Mexican citizen, also came to the United States legally as a child in the early 1900s with his family, trying to escape the chaos of the Mexican Revolution. It was during the same time that Romney's grandfather, Gaskell, returned to the United States with his family, also legally and presumably for the same reason. Now he says. "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."

    September 17, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. uncdig

    What Romney stated was correct – there is a large number of voters in the US who will vote which ever party promises them a continued lifestyle funded by other Americans. They will never vote for a conservative who threatens their way of life, so why bother trying to woo them into voting for him – thats a waste of time, money & effort – pretty smart thinking. Wish more politicians thought about not wasting, time, money & effort & got our economy healthy. Every well bodied American ought to be able to work & not rely on Govt aid.

    September 17, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  12. packerfans

    Vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan!!! Do not Vote Obama, no more second terms!!

    September 17, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  13. Abe Lincoln

    I have a campaign video of Barack Obama collecting cash from naked democrats who were solicited to lick his feet for $1000 each. Honestly.

    September 17, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  14. Rishi

    Romney at his best.

    September 17, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  15. herrick9

    Uh Oh! Dunno if there is a tool in the shed for this stuff......

    September 17, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  16. geezus

    i'm one of the 47% who receives no governmental support, pay taxes and take personal responsibilty for my life, my destiny and never have i felt i am a victim. but if romney wins, then i may become one of the 47% he's talking about because we will live in a third world country of the rich and the poor. period.

    September 17, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  17. Basky72

    Mitt is not one of us. This guy believe that our lives depends on government just bcos is a one per center. God saves us from this man..

    September 17, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  18. JoeThePlumber

    For a change, Romney wasn't attacking Obama. This time (In private), he was attacking YOU.

    September 17, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  19. glorydays

    I think he finally showed himself and subsequently sunk the ship.

    September 17, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  20. Obama2012

    Mitt Romney showed his true colors, and they aren't red, white and blue! He is a disgrace!

    September 17, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  21. Romneycare

    America has too many non-productive elderly, poor and middle class – Romney/Ryan have a final solution.

    September 17, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. uncdig

    What Romney stated was correct – there is a large number of voters in the US who will vote which ever party promises them a continued lifestyle funded by other Americans. They will never vote for a conservative who threatens their way of life, so why bother trying to woo them into voting for him – thats a waste of time, money & effort – pretty smart thinking. Wish more politicians thought about not wasting, time, money & effort & got our economy healthy. Every well bodied American ought to be able to work & not rely on Govt aid.

    September 17, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |

    September 17, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. Romneyidiot

    He is not president of united states of America. He is CEO of united states of America

    September 17, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. stallion

    mr.romney,guilty as charged.that's why you would never be president.

    September 17, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  25. Just An American

    Dear Mitt.

    If you had not sent so many jobs overseas, maybe i wouldnt need government help to feed my family.
    Thanks for playing.

    Obama 2012

    September 17, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
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