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. Wanderer

    1. "Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said. "Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people."
    Mr. Romney! There is no proof that shows ‘Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people”, but the majority of Americans are seeing clearly that the corporations have not contributed to people. The corporations may be job creators, but the jobs they created don’t exist in America. Most of the jobs the corporations created are in China and India, instead.

    August 11, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  2. wonderabout

    EVERYONE needs to pay their fair share – and here's one for you Romney: EVERY dime a low income family receives goes back out into the community for food, rent, mortgage.... whatever – how much of the millionaire's money goes into their community? or any community for that matter – well, I'll tell ya – it usually goes back into the pockets of others just like them.... greedy, ego-filled, pompous asses like you!

    August 11, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  3. Publius Novus

    Would you kindly put your tie back on? We know that you are trying to look like one of the "people," but you just look silly. Have some respect man.

    August 11, 2011 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. Grundoon

    Check out Mittens serving his corporate masters!

    August 11, 2011 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. Why the heck are you wasting time and money in Iowa? It hasn't mattered in presidential elections for decades and will vote democratic anyway.

    August 11, 2011 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. James Johanson

    Yes. Let's raise taxes. Let's cut wasteful entitlements in welfare. Let's bring our troops home. Let's get rid of the job steeling illegal aliens. Let's pay down our debt. YES!

    August 11, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. thomas

    As in Enron ?

    Did anybody ask his why none of his five sons did any military service ?

    August 11, 2011 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. a slozomby

    corporations people + send people to washington = send corporations to washington.

    like they havent been running the show for years as it is.

    August 11, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  9. V in Chicago

    Wow – this is one of the most telling sound bites / clips I've seen on Romney yet. He is so far out of touch with the "real world". Corporations are people? Yea, the money goes in to the pockets of people, the rich people. He just doesn't get it. Well, cross that one off my possible "vote for" list. Anyone who will not even consider closing loopholes and raising taxes on those that do not currently pay as much as I do, will never get my vote. How is it that GE paid no taxes in 2010 and I owed money, even after my paycheck was hit every pay period? This nonsense has to stop and we have to make sure that those that have their heels dug in on this tax issue are either NOT voted into office or are voted out if already in. The greedy rich will be the downfall of this Great Nation. And, don't preach to me about "it's the rich that create jobs". I happen to work in an area very well known for their money. Yea, they create jobs, they hire illegals at an embarrasing low wage to do their lawns, clean their homes and do everything else they wouldn't be caught doing. The rich do not create jobs, they destroy economies!

    August 11, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  10. Walt

    Romney's the sanest of all the whack jobs that support complete corporate takeover of America at the expense of SS recipients

    August 11, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  11. rs

    And thus the single biggest problem with modern GOP/TP thinking is revealed. People may work for corporations; people may head corporations; corporations may benefit (or hurt) people, but in no way are corporations equal to people. This sick, twisted ideology is wrecking the Republican Party- and through their petty machinations, our once great nation.

    August 11, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  12. BatMan

    Yet another reason Romney is not even close to leading anything but another reason to not vote for any REPUB candidate, they ONLY want to let the Corporations and the Wealthy continue to grow and let the rest of US hard working Americans foot the bill for their success. Wake up America the TEABAGGERS got all the REPUB candidates affraid to even say the "T" WORD........TAXES and we need to TAX these companies that are shipping JOBS overseas to India....Apple may be number one in profits now over ExxonMobile BUT guess where the IPHONEs and IPADs are made!!!! CHINA PEOPLE...thats right....but we are the ones paying their TAXES for them bc APPLE and EXXON and all the big companies got tax breaks from REPUBS..... Yeah on one more thing...Lets NOT FORGET RICK PERRY is the governor that wanted TEXAS TO Seceed FROM THE US...and that was just last year he said in Texas!!!! Yeah Perry what a great AMERICAN HUH!!!!

    OBAMA 2012!!!!

    August 11, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. joan

    hopefully romney will continue to campaign and answer more questions from the audience.. the more we can see of his spontanaity the better informed we will be of his character and true policies

    August 11, 2011 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  14. Pravaa

    Wow. just wow. " Everything a corporation earns goes into peoples pockets" ??????????????? What is this guy smoking? And he is the lead runner for the GOP nomination? We are so screwed if this guy becomes President.

    August 11, 2011 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  15. Down With Plutocracy

    I hope he feels good about yelling at his constituents. I hope he feels better taking it from Big Business. Obviously he really doesn't care what the people – HIS people even – think. I truly hope this is the end of the GOP and therein the United States of Plutocracy. A True Democracy (or even a Socialist Republic [id prefer more universal and socialistic our elected officials get?] in our case) sounds a lot nicer in comparison to our gradual revertion to indentured servitude/slavery as seems to be the case with the Union-Busting (unions are way more needed today than in Reagan's time when they were much more he began, and we now see, the rights of workers melt like the poles) anti-american corporate knobjockeys vying for control of the govt.

    August 11, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. Jae

    Yes I want to raise taxes, here's the reason why. When s.s. Medicare was founded minorities weren't people. So they went covered. Now we have the 1st generation of minorities having s.s. And Medicare benefits. How do u suggest covering then and other minorities to b covered?

    August 11, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  17. EDJOE

    Mitt's Dad run for the White House when he said he had been brain washed. Mitt's latest gaffe that corporations are people show he's been Bain washed.

    August 11, 2011 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  18. Gee

    It is hard for me to believe that these people actually get to about mindless fools

    August 11, 2011 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. vic , nashville ,tn

    "Everything a corporation earns ultimately goes to people." True Chinese, Indians etc

    The question is what percent corporation gives to American people

    The fact is corporation gives more money to campaign (politician)

    August 11, 2011 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. logic in LA

    Spoken like the Plutocrat he is- let the rich get richer! It is true- corporate stock is owned by people- they make money simply by gambling that overpaid executives find a way to make higher profits,usually at the cost of it's employees- also people by the way. Corporate wages are down- Corporate payrolls are down- Corporate profits are through the roof. you do the math.

    August 11, 2011 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. SaintM

    The way he yelled back instead of engaging in civil debate or conversation should tell everyone they need to know about this jerk. He's contradicting himself already and he's not even in the national arena. He's also yelling back at people. President Obama is so much classier than Romney, and Romney's ego is so big. He's seems to be demanding that you vote for him. Wonder how he'll react when the really tough questions come at him like the one million dollar donation, and his being a corporate raider that shipped jobs overseas. What a class act - NOT....

    Obama 2012 - in a cake walk!!!

    August 11, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. Rose

    Romney said "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."

    First – the amount of money in your bank account is not a good measure of success, especially when you look at trust fund babies. So are we to supposed to go after people who are successful, but not extremely wealthy?

    Romney said "Corporations are people, my friend." If that is the case, then where are the bonus tax breaks and loopholes for WE THE PEOPLE??? We the people are paying a higher tax rate than those corporations.

    August 11, 2011 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. 5041360

    there goes mitt into the sunset- last time he ran – someone asked why none of his sons were iserving in the military- uhis answer- they are serving their country by working on my campaign- it's on tape- watch for it to be played aroumd military bases - when he was at Bain -companies were bought and and destroyd and jobs were sent off shore–he is so out of touch i- as are the other republican candidates- a sjhip of fools!

    August 11, 2011 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  24. once upon a horse

    well since Mitt is one of the many unemployed in this country you would think he'd have a different view of Corporate America. Me thinks that the Obama team won't have to go very hard after Romney, Mitt will make all the sound bites they need himself.

    August 11, 2011 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  25. closetiguana

    Corporations are treated better than people. That's the sad reality.

    August 11, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
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