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. sick of republican phonies

    Of COURSE some people cling to their guns... what's that NRA quote from Heston about having to pry the gun from "my cold, dead hands"? Sounds like clinging to me! I wonder if they DID have to pry it from his hands before they stuck him in the ground... As for the believers, the ardent ones are shrill enough and self-righteous enough- ears firmly clamped shut- to be defined as "clinging". Sorry, republicans, you may howl about it but it's the truth. That's why you howl so loudly!

    September 17, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. Steve

    The Republican "Big Tent" is rapidly shrinking into a pup tent.

    September 17, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  3. Bo King

    Saruman of Many Colors shows his true face.

    September 17, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  4. drcool

    "CNN has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the recordings." But hey, we'll post about 'em anyway bcuz we don't care about upholding any jounalistic standards as regards checking our sources or being fair and unbiased.

    September 17, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  5. Wouldstronglyprefer Justice

    The error of the Republicans is they just can't believe a thinking American would examine their position and then reject it.

    September 17, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  6. Damian X

    Well Mitt thank you for proving to everyone you really are a POS.

    September 17, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  7. Bob

    Yeah, buzzfeed posted this 3 weeks ago.

    September 17, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  8. Patrick Portland

    So, let's get this straight. CNN advises they cannot verify the authenticity of the recordings but they decided to print this anyway. Is it no wonder CNN's ratings are in the toilet. Hmmmmm.;..wonder if you would do this if the apologizer occupying the white house had mumbled something in private and you couldn't verify the authenticity. CNN – you are not even good at covering up how much you're in the bag for Obama & have become cheerleaders instead of an independent news source. How embarassing....I'm at the point where I second guess & verify everything reported by CNN. Didn't used to do that...sad commentary...much like most of the so called news reporting posted here.

    September 17, 2012 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  9. Lindsay

    wow....what a jerk! the more i learn about this guy, the more i dislike him.

    September 17, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  10. edpeters101

    I find it hard to believe that Mitt Twitt is human. He has no compassion, no feelings, gotta be a ROBOT!

    September 17, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  11. LBLA

    Why did they report on this when the article clearly says:

    "CNN has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the recordings"

    WOW CNN! New lows every day.

    September 17, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  12. DarqueSide

    Mitt the Twit strikes again! This time he's insulting Americans! His campaign is already going down in flames... now he's throwing gasoline on the fire to ensure its complete destruction!

    September 17, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  13. jparker

    Haha you loose Romney your never going to be president, ever.

    September 17, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  14. elucidated1

    How many more times will Romney blow it? Here he is trying to gain 20% more voters from latinos and US women and then makes completely stupid comments. The only people in the US who don't know that Obama is going to win in a walkover are posting on Fox.

    September 17, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    We all know you are in the TANK for Obama and we also know becasue of this nothing you say is true when it comes to Gov, Romney. So, don't waste your time talking about things that are not true. When you do this it shows you're no better than Obam!!!!!

    September 17, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  16. us_1776

    Romney,

    It would be helpful if you had even the remotest idea of the middle-class.

    It would be even more helpful if you would release your tax returns for the last 8 years so that people would know you were honest about your taxes.

    .

    September 17, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  17. Just an observer

    So, it is true he will not care for poor Americans. I knew what he believed in but am still shock to hear in his own voice. God help us.

    September 17, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  18. Malory Archer

    Wow. My husband and I are both Obama voters. Our combined income is in the six figures, and last year we paid between 23 & 24% of our income in federal & FICA taxes, or roughly double what mittens alleges he paid. How does that make us "dependent on government"? This video proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has contempt for anyone who isn't a family member, mormon or sychophant.

    Considering the red states tend to be "taker" states who receive far more in federal compensation than they pay in, and blue states are "giver" states funding those red states by paying far more to the fed than is returned, does he REALLY believe that all of the "freeloaders" live in blue states? How many elderly Americans are exempt from paying federal income tax? How can they and other low income people on the right not be offended, or do you believe the draconian policies he and lyin' are dreaming of imposing will somehow exempt you bacause you voted for them?

    September 17, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  19. GaryB

    I'm a small business owner. I've never asked for a government handout. The one time I qualified for unemployment after the company I was working for closed my entire division, I ended up starting a business rather than claiming unemployment. And oh yeah, I pay a higher prooprtion of my income in taxes than Mitt Romney. And you know what, unless things change dramatically, I'll be voting for Obama. When the dems were in charge of congress and Obama was in the whitte house, they did more things helpful to my small business (allowing health insurance costs to be written off on my schedule C, for instance) than Bush and the Republicans did in the four years that they controlled both those branches. Romney has not demonstrated that he has any new solutions, and his blanket statements show that he is completely out of touch with the poeple that actually work in this economy (as opposed to his conservative elite friends who get most of their income from inheritances and passive investments).

    September 17, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. Carpenter Wayne Asa

    Good Morning, CNN! This story has been out for 4 hours on Politico, Time, WaPo, HuffPost, TPM....
    Why not consider real news vs. Kate Middleton's Pix, Lindsey Lohan and Amanda Bynes, etc.
    I mean really, what has happened to you guys?

    September 17, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  21. Don

    OMG shocking, just shocking that Romney speaks the truth wherever he goes. I can't believe that he said 47% of voters will voe for the ONE, I thought it would be more like 50-55%. Grow Up CNN, Grow up Media, Grow up America.

    September 17, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  22. HenryB

    Is there any more doubt about Romney and his Republicans as they view those who will not vote for them. I work, pay taxes, and care about my fellow man and I WILL VOTE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!

    September 17, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  23. Annie1010

    I gotta say, I 100% agree with what Romney said about being Latino and about the large percentage of Americans that will vote for Obama in order to keep getting government handouts. It's sad, but it's true. He's just stating the facts.

    September 17, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  24. Tell me you're kidding

    So now the truth is controversial?

    September 17, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  25. jcourtn1

    And people think Mitt has no sense of humor. This is funny stuff. He's stealing Stephen Colbert's material.

    September 17, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
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