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. Just one class

    So wait because I am a democrat, I don't pay taxes cause I am part of the "47%" even though I am strong middle class? If only your daddy's money could have bought you some intelligence Romney. Basically he just created class warfare in front of his rich buddies.

    September 17, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  2. TXGOP

    The only thing shocking about it is that it's shockingly TRUE. Obama will win because he has created legions more people who are dependent on government handouts, of which Obama is the champion.

    September 17, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  3. John

    Don't need any more negative ads......the lines are drawn, if you are opposed to the 47% that need some help or assistance from the government you will vote for Obama....If you are part of the upper income tax bracket, and are a little or moderately greedy, you will probably vote for Romney.......the other 30-40% of AMericans whether they believe that one candidate or the other represents the AMerica that they would like to live in.....Come on Nov. 6, get here soon.

    September 17, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  4. RDA

    Mittens: It's a great time to be a rich snob isn't it? Especially one who doesn't come close to paying his fair share of taxes and won't release his tax returns. Talk about stiffing the government - and the people over whom you want to rule, evidently like a feudal lord. Talk about a hypocrite!

    September 17, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  5. billy

    Romney is disgusting.

    September 17, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  6. Save America from Romney

    I am not surprised that this man has no core. He doesn't know why he running to be president. He cares only for the rich. Please don't vote for this guy.

    September 17, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  7. Yoda

    R2-MITT-2 is out of control .

    September 17, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  8. macbil

    Dear Governor Romney,

    I demand an apology. I'm going to vote for President Obama. I'm one of the 47% you refer to. I own my own small business. I work hard. I don't receive any payments from the government. I pay my federal taxes which are 5% more of my income than you pay. After earning a small fraction of what you earn. Let me repeat that. I pay 5% more of income in federal taxes than you do and I earn a small fraction of what you do. You have proven once again that you are beholden to extremely wealthy individuals who really want to find any reason then can to care about anyone but themselves. I am disgusted by your comments.

    September 17, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  9. PJ

    When you look at the shenanigans of the NRA, and the tactics that are used by the evangelicals, all confirmed by
    Paul Ryan's statement, you can conlude that President Obama was correct in his assessment. Still, he was
    vilified and is still under attack for these comments.
    That said, there is no comparison to these words and the words that Romney spoke at his "private" fundraiser.
    There are those who will defend him, blame Obama and make excuses, but if this doesn't prove to all that Romney is
    incapable of compassion and has zero understanding of the suffering of many American people, nothing will.
    If Romney doesn't understand that ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and
    that includes All the people, he is disqualified to be President. But is anyone surprised? You can be wealthy
    but not elitist. Now that nagging feeling in my gut, that something I couldn't put my finger on about Romney.
    has just been answered.

    September 17, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  10. SM McMahon

    Dear Mr. Romney

    Please join your money in the Bermuda Islands, The Caymans and Switzerland - and "self-deport"...

    September 17, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  11. Save America from Romney

    I am not surprised that this man has no core. He doesn't know why he is running to be president. He cares only for the rich. Please don't vote for this guy.

    September 17, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  12. judy

    romney has foot in mouth. Of course he writes off half of the Americans. We see how much help they will get. He says that 47% don't pay taxes. Those numbers are wrong.Must be nice to be a rich snob that can pass judgement on half this country. This is the guy that will work for you? I think not Forward 2012

    September 17, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  13. citizen17

    What a politician says in a private meeting reveals great insight into his/her character. I wonder if Romney will echo the battle cry of his "guilty as charged" running mate and own this.

    September 17, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  14. Mk54

    Romney has let the cat out of the bag.....and it is a tiger that will rip his election chances to shreds.

    September 17, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  15. Malik Shabazz

    Romney just highlighted Obamas true campaign platform.. Hope for more free stuff..

    September 17, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  16. once upon a horse

    as the saying has gone "the more you get to know Mitt Romney, the LESS you like him" Now let's see him spin his way out of this.

    September 17, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  17. Jmaz

    How refreshing – an honest presidential candidate. Romney's 100% spot on – those who have been brainwashed into thinking that they have to be completely dependent upon the government to survive are not the type of people who are going to vote for a businessman. They vote for the race-baiting hate-hustlers who want to keep the slaves on the plantation. There's NOTHING Romney can do to convince these brainwashed fools so why waste time and money on them. As far as the hyphenateds... all Romney has to do is say "African Americans: you are currently enjoying the highest unemployment in DECADES. Hispanics: All those promises Obama made in 08? he has kept NONE of them. Unfortunately, some are still so very brainwashed by the DNC controlled media that they will still vote for the Blame and Shame Game of Obama/Biden.

    September 17, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  18. Jim

    Way to go romney you pompus moron. Nothing like handing the election to Obama is there. You just neutered your chance at the presidency. ha ha ha ha...got to laugh though..I'll bet rush, sara, michelle ,newt, your wife ann, glen, rence, rudy, " i am not a witch" and mostly the fools at fox are shaking their heads saying..nooooooooooooooooooooooo...we are done we are toast. Good one, fumbled the ball mid field and picked up by the democrats to take it all the way back for the win. I love it!!!!! Go Obama.

    September 17, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  19. Dennis1020

    If this is an authentic recording, you can stick a fork in Romney's campaign–it's done.

    September 17, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  20. Wake up America

    I wish he was this honest on campaign speeches! He's got my vote! About time someone said that half of this nation are takers. Obama always says everybody needs to pay their fair share. What happen to the 47% that don't pay anything. Where is their fair share. Go Romney!

    September 17, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  21. gmenfan54

    Every time Romney opens his mouth he puts his foot in it.

    September 17, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  22. SM McMahon

    Mitt knows one very narrow slice of the American banking industry – how to maximize profits by leveraging relatively small amounts of money, transfer it through many accounting tricks into profits rather than earned income, and avoid taxation by moving it overseas

    He's never made a small-business or mortgage loan – though he bought a set of existing loans as a guaranteed high-return investment package and now collects mortgage payments from unfortunate homeowners – or dealt with people buying CDs or trying to balance their checking accounts. He's never manufactured or sold a product, other than the soft soap of his leveraged investment opportunities.

    He's certainly never faced the vicissitudes of life that Americans face, like how to pay for your kid's braces, or Mom's doctor, the mortgage or the rent.

    September 17, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  23. The Reprobate

    Romney may fall on his own sword before Obama has a chance to stick the fork in him.

    September 17, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  24. macbil

    Dear Governor Romney,

    I demand an apology. I'm going to vote for President Obama. I'm one of the 47% you refer to. I own my own small business. I work hard. I don't receive any payments from the government. I pay my federal taxes which are 5% more of my income than you pay. After earning a small fraction of what you earn. Let me repeat that. I pay 5% more of income in federal taxes than you do and I earn a small fraction of what you do. You have proven once again that you are beholden to extremely wealthy individuals who really want to find any reason then can to not care about anyone but themselves. I am disgusted by your comments.

    September 17, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  25. Carlos

    Spoken like a true Republican!

    September 17, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
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