Romney says 'corporations are people,' heckled at Iowa event
August 11th, 2011
02:41 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney says 'corporations are people,' heckled at Iowa event

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – On Thursday, Mitt Romney faced the joys and political perils of a frontrunner in the Republican presidential race: at times feeling his supporters' political crush - but also fending off catcalls and heckles by critics.

The spontaneous drama at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines took several bizarre turns.

In one instance, the candidate declared "corporations are people" - a line surely to become ammunition for political opponents eager to cast Romney as a wealthy corporate raider unfamiliar with the concerns of average Americans.

At times Romney sounded populist themes, at one point saying: "If we're going to turn around the economy … Let's send some citizens to Washington." And yet, in another breath, the former Massachusetts governor defended big business against high taxes.

"Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said. "Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people."

Critics in the crowd laughed at Romney for the comment though his intent was unclear.

That hasn't stopped the Democratic National Committee from already seizing on the line.

"It is a shocking admission from a candidate-and a party-that shamelessly puts forward policies to help large corporations and the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class, seniors, and students," DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

In opening remarks, Romney reiterated familiar slams against President Obama.

"We're led by a man who's a fine fella. But he's out of his depth and doesn't understand how the economy works," Romney said.

It's when Romney ended his speech, and took questions from the audience, that things turned ugly.

Among the first questions shouted at Romney: "Do you support scrapping the Social Security payroll cap so that rich people pay their fair share into the trust fund?"

Romney's response: "You know there was a time in this country that we didn't celebrate attacking people based on their success. And we didn't go after people because they were successful."

Another questioner belted away at Romney.

"Sir, I am on Social Security," he said.

"My wife is on Social Security. You came here to listen to the people. How are you going to strengthen Social Security for the future?"

As the man continued to shout, Romney cut him short.

"You asked your question and now I am going to give my answer. If you don't like my answer then you can vote for someone else," Romney chastised. "But now it is my turn to give my answer."

The man later identified himself as Joe Fagan, a 71-year old former Catholic priest. He is the founder of the liberal community activist group Citizens for Community Improvement. In the past, Fagan has similarly heckled other Republican politicians.

As Romney insisted he would not raise taxes, the exchange became testy not unlike a defining moment in 1980 as then presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan demanded access to a Republican debate and at one point shouted at a moderator, "I am paying for this microphone."

In perhaps the most tense moment of the event, yet another man shouted that Romney should support scrapping the Social Security payroll cap.

"You want to raise taxes? You want to raise taxes," Romney shouted back at the man.

Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Mitt Romney
soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. cf

    This man doesn't have a clue about or care one damn about lower, middle, and working class people, and it should be evident to everybody listening after this pathetic display.

    August 11, 2011 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. gt

    he needs to show his metal ... its a very tough job

    August 11, 2011 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  3. The Other Michael in Houston

    Nice Romney. That is why you lost to of all people, John McCain. Cooperations do not give back to the people. They give to the likes of you and other politicians to keep them from paying their fair share of taxes and to keep them rich. When was the last time Shell Oil walked into a homeless shelter and gave a person a job? When was the last time a Wall Street firm went to an unemployment office and offered up job? Heck even a mialroom job? Exactly! And that guy was not heckling Romney, that was a legit quesiton. I will never need a Social Security Check because I am set for life, but their are hard working Americans out there that are not as fortunate as me that will need that to survive. So what are any of you going to do about making sure Social Security and Medicare will exist in the furture?

    August 11, 2011 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. chris smith

    I want to raise taxes, if that means letting the Bush tax cuts expire.

    August 11, 2011 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. Pete M

    So, the running meme during the 2012 election will be...Joe the Priest???

    August 11, 2011 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. TomInRochNY

    We, Mitt, we want to raise taxes on people who don't pay their fair share and don't create jobs in America.

    August 11, 2011 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    That's perfectly understandable. Corporations have become nothing but targets for CEO rip offs.

    August 11, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Mike

    YEP, heckled by a lazy unemployed liberal who blogs from his mommies basement.

    August 11, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. J

    Just one question?

    When Corps die where does the soul go

    August 11, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. JAANC

    why would anyone from the DNC deduce that corporations are not people? I am at work (lunch) right now and work for a corporation.. this company pays me a wage and benefits and I am not rich.. What this company does is sustain me and my family how is that not a person.. "Corporations" are not ubiquitous entities that are just blobs of nothingness.. People work for corporations.. How does Wasserman Schultz think people get money? We're all not on state welfare...

    August 11, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    LOL! His richness is coming to the top and flowing over.
    Yes, you dumb arse, we want to raise taxes on you and your millionaire/billionaire friends. What part of this don't you bozos get?????
    The poor and vanishing middle class have every right to attack those who are trying to screw us, you kidding?
    Are you talking about the jobs your companies sent abroad while firing American workers?
    I hope they all get this kind of treatment because it seems that besides attacking the President none of them have new ideas or solutions. I hope this was tapec because it sounds priceless. Did his hair move?

    August 11, 2011 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  12. NuwanSam

    These people who says Obama is out of touch are more out of touch with what majority of American people wants. Every poll says a clear majority of American people wants a balanced approach and are for tax increases and closing the loopholes to wealthy. The Republicans always defy the voice of that majority and talk completely nonsense.

    August 11, 2011 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. A Repulbican

    Can you imagine if he were president. god help us all, middle class, seniors and young people might as well forget it, he would destroy us like he did when he was running a private equity firm, profits over jobs!

    August 11, 2011 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  14. johnfx

    Sounds like an ignorant crowd based on some of the responses.Romney has a point, corporate taxation is just a way to get voter support for tax increases on "someone else" without realizing that it is just a backdoor way to tax them. The comment about rich people not paying their fair share of Social Security because of the cap was just laughable. People, you do realize that social security BENEFITS are capped for rich people too, right?

    August 11, 2011 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. Bill

    The bufoonish, flip-flopping Romney will never be president. Save your money and go work on your tan.

    August 11, 2011 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  16. one voice

    So He stands behind the RADICAL Right-Wing Supreme Court decision(Citizens United ruling). Mittens was (Mr take over Corporations and then ship the jobs oversees Romney) He's a JOKE, PERIOD.

    August 11, 2011 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. John

    Just another Republican that only care about the RICH AND BIG BUSINESS. And the Hell with the Rest of us.

    August 11, 2011 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. AL in West Palm Beach

    So it looks like Mitt, got stuck in a pitt...someone quick bring a few screws on bolts. Romney needs a few clues.

    August 11, 2011 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. denice

    Romneys Rehtoric is going "No Where" Fast! I really "Feel for your Ceo,s and corporations??? My Heart "Bleeds for these Billionaire Corps!!! Thats why they call you the "AX MAN" You have a 1 in 50.000,000,000 chance for the White House ! I bet your having "Fun" spending all that money ,hey??? Oh,thats right, your un-employed, I forgot!

    August 11, 2011 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |

    The teabaggers have a plan for Romney to repeat 2008. Cue up Rick Perry and Snookie Palin to rain on his parade.

    August 11, 2011 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. aj

    The SS payroll cap means that ther wealthy are not paying their fare share and yet they cry louder than anyone about overhauling SS. The problem is the successful in this country are only successful because they exploit the rest of us for their own personal gain. The wealthy have been practicing class warfare on the poor and middle since the beginning of capitalism. The tide is turning in this country and the working class, which the wealthy have NEVER been apart of, are "mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore". Dylan Ratigan's rant was right on target as to what the REAL problem is in this country....GREED!

    August 11, 2011 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  22. andrewstl

    he is a joke!

    dont get me wrong the other GOP possibles are a joke a sad joke but this guy knows the crap he says us wrong. unlike bachman who is too ignorant to educate herslf on the facts

    August 11, 2011 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  23. C. Howe Yulikit

    LOL! Bye Mitty! That soundbite will get repeated 10k times between now and November 2012.

    August 11, 2011 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  24. FM

    I have to laugh. Things are starting to shape up when its too early for that. I can not imagine how things will be if the queen of Alaska jumps in!

    August 11, 2011 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  25. BeverlyNC

    What an out-of-touch idiot! Corporations are destroying the PEOPLE – where are all the jobs Republicans say will come from these "job creators" by letting them keep their tax loopholes and govt, subsidies?? Republicans are liars not leaders.

    August 11, 2011 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
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