February 1st, 2012
12:51 PM ET
11 years ago

Romney says 'poor' comment needs context

(CNN) – Aboard his campaign charter plane Wednesday, Mitt Romney sought to clarify a remark he made earlier in the day on CNN about not being "concerned about the very poor" saying his words were being taken out of context.

Talking to CNN's Soledad O'Brien, Romney - perhaps ineloquently - explained his campaign's focus on the middle class, stating that there are programs to help the poor and the rich are doing well on their own.

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"I'm not concerned about the very poor," Romney said. "There's a safety net there, and if it needs repair I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the heart of America, the 95% of Americans who are right now struggling."

Responding to reporters' questions during the press availability on his plane, Romney made sure to put the quote in the correct context.

"No, no, no, no," Romney said. "You've got to take the whole sentence, all right, as opposed to saying, and then change it just a little bit, because then it sounds very different. I've said throughout the campaign my focus, my concern, my energy is gonna be devoted to helping middle income people, all right? We have a safety net for the poor in, and if there are holes in it, I will work to repair that. And if there are people that are falling through the cracks I want to fix that."

Romney explained further, saying his campaign has always been about helping the middle class.

"Wealthy people are doing fine," Romney said. "But my focus in the campaign is on middle income people. Of course I'm concerned about all Americans - poor, wealthy, middle class, but the focus of my effort will be on middle income families who I think have been most hurt by the Obama economy."

Romney conceded there were holes in the safety net for poor Americans, and acknowledged it was the government's responsibility to help find the systems' deficiencies.

"I'm sure there are places where people fall between the cracks," Romney said. "And finding those places is one of the things that is the responsibility of government. We do have a very ample safety net in America, with Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps, earned income tax credit. We have a number of ways of helping the poor. And yet my focus and the area that I think is the greatest challenge that the country faces right now is not, is not to focus our effort on how we help the poor as much as to focus our effort on how to help the middle class in America, and get more people in the middle class and get people out of being poor and becoming middle income."

Romney has made the point on the trail over the past several months that his campaign is focused on helping middle class Americans find jobs rather than helping poor Americans who he says already have plenty of help. Romney hadn't gone as far as saying he was "not concerned" about the poor.

Campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the state's primary, Romney actually said he was concerned about the poor, before reiterating that his campaign wasn't focused on wealthy people.

"I'm concerned about the poor in this country," Romney said on January 13. "We have to make sure the safety net is strong and able to help those who cannot help themselves. I'm not terribly worried about the wealthiest in our society. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the vast middle class in our nation, the 90% or 95% of Americans who are having tough times."

Rivals, both Democratic and Republican, have long attempted to paint Romney as out-of-touch, given his wealth and career as a private equity executive. Romney has responded by saying he won't apologize for his success, pointing out his experience in the private sector taught him about job creation.

CNN's Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

Also see:

Romney: Convention or bust

Santorum looks past Florida

New anti-Obama ad slams Solyndra 'fiasco'

Romney to receive Secret Service protection

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (349 Responses)
  1. Terry Phillips

    According to the reports I've seen, the very poor has gotten worse off during the past three years. Seems like ANY candidate would be better than status quo.

    February 1, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. ShawnDH

    Mittens is the weakest and most flawed Republican (presumptive) nominee in a long time....even worse than Dole and McCain. He can't beat Obama. He couldn't even beat McCain!

    February 1, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. John McSherry

    You'd think anyone by now would know not to talk to any CNN reporter for publication. Soledad (being the liberal she is) was interested in getting 'gotchas' and not reporting.

    February 1, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  4. yeahriiiight

    Not taken out of context and even if it's a freudan slip it still the same. The country can't afford another Ronald Reagan whose every speech is always rebutted the next day The country does not need another intelligence challenge president.

    February 1, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. BLKMANinAmerica

    WTH evea Romehead..............................your so out of touch how on earth can you "fix" anything dude? REALLY!

    February 1, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. Steve

    The 95% reference is most concerning. If Romney believes 95% of the people are in the middle, he is clearly out of touch. The percentage of poor is growing while the percentage in the middle is diminishing. And the safety net doesn't merely have holes, it is collapsing under the weight.

    February 1, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. SallyinChicago


    Didn’t Romney also declare that “Somebody who’s fallen from the middle class to poverty, in my opinion is still middle class.” He has no idea what it’s like to be “middle class” and live paycheck to paycheck and be so deeply in debt you’re actually “poor” … Both the poor and the middle class share the same safety net but one is more deserving of immediate relief ? What is he going to do – strengthen the safety net to relieve debilitating levels of personal indebtedness ? How is that even going to begin to work in practice ?"

    Elizabeth I was the middle class. I have 2 degrees and the most money I have made in my like is $40,000 but I'm not complaining. The least amount was $18,000 and I was poor. i was glad to have safety net - unemployment insurance for one - available. We need those safety nets, but he has forgotten that a lot of "middle" class are now the "poor" class. and what does he consider "Middle" class? $50,000? That's peanuts to a family with kids. Even the $100,000 people are crying broke. Lots of students are "poor".
    I can see the twitter board going nuts with those words.

    February 1, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. Bill

    Why is it that nobody is catching on about the rich? There is a preconception and bias that has driven people to take this out of context. He clearly cares about all social classes with focus being on middle income America as they aren't being helped out with the "safety net" and clearly need the greatest help.

    February 1, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. scott

    All you that take his words out of context...go get a life. You all know what he meant, don't spin his words. What a waste of time!

    February 1, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  10. us1776

    Well, I mean he did say $375,000/yr was not a lot of money.


    February 1, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. NameRev. Bob

    Mitt is a tone deaf poser. He does not understand anything but 1%! Hammock? Christian? I think not!

    February 1, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. Randy, San Francisco

    There are many people in the top 1% of wealthiest americans who are concerned about the welfare of the very poor...Romney isn't one of them.

    February 1, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I can't believe the ignorance of people attacking Romney on this comment. His whole comment in context is non-controversial and pretty accurate. Using misperceptions and emotions to steer the discussion is the mainstay liberal tactic.

    February 1, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  14. macrasta

    but isn't it the same GOP that is trying to cut these "safety nets"???

    February 1, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  15. just-me

    While I'm NOT a Romney supporter. His complete statement was correct. And he said if there where "holes" in the system, GOV must fix them. Give him credit for saying it's the middle class (what's left) that needs to be looked out for.

    February 1, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. Lolo

    Republicans/tpartiers, America is awake and will not be fooled by your lies.

    February 1, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. dc

    i love all the comments complaining to high hell by all these people in the middle of the day.... hey get a clue (GO GET A JOB) if you worked half as hard as making a life for your self by taking advantage of education and opportunities there would BE NO POOR. you could all be come middle class or more.

    his whole line was taken out of context and all the left wing nuts jump on what they thing they hear. this man understands economics and job creation a million times more then this preisdent does.

    this president all he wants to do is redistribute wealth..... on the folks who created that wealth.... and while that happens EVERYONE will become poorer... you know what poor people do with money....they spend it of garbage.... you know what rich people do with money.... create wealth.... invest, start companies... create jobs.....

    as an educator, so many people are cluesless in this nation.... learn to play the game way the game should be played in our society.... or you DESERVE whatever you get.

    i care about the poor.... i donate, i educate them.... i do may part... i am sick and tired of freeloaders ...including those who curse us and are proud of bilking us as illegals sucking the rest of us dry.....AND IM NOT RICH!!!!!!!!

    you are liberal and vote these socialists into office over and over again and all we'll get is more foodstamps and welfare..... and the "Great Society" and 50 plus years of carrying the poor has really helped us hasnt it..... NOW WE'RE FRIGGAN BANKRUPT AS A NATION.

    February 1, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  18. DeTamble

    *** yeahme

    Liberals, please go away. Move out of America if you hate it so much

    We dont hate America, we just hate what Republicans have done to it.
    Excuse us, we have to get back to work fixing this mess you left us.

    February 1, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  19. HomeSweetHome

    Jen, you wrote "But if we don't focus on helping our middle class there will be no place for the poor to move up. Hence the reason he is focused on the midddle class. Getting people employed (not underemployed) and on the path to self sufficiency. It is a shame so many people on this site don't get it."

    We get it, its just that you and Mitt do not get it. Look at his Tax Plan, he wants to increase the Taxes for the poor. He said in a speech in FL that 40% of the US does not pay taxes. The poor does pay taxes, everytime they purchase goods and serves. But the rich do not . They even have ways of not paying taxes which the poor do not. Mitt paid less taxes then most poor people did in 2010.

    He wants to lower the taxes for the "1%" to some were around 10% which will make him pay around 2 or 1% or even less. These are the same "Job Creaters that have had 3 tax cuts and US workers are still out of work. No Jobs have been created by big corporations or oil companies. They are sitting on Trillons of dollars and not paying their fair share in taxes on any of it. But they have created more jobs overseas at the American Peoples expense. We pay them money to create jobs overseas, remember.

    This is what the people out of work can see. Mit and the GOP/TP do not care about the poor or middle class. They only care about "Power". And they will use or say anything in their power to get it back.

    Jen, we get it. The GOP lied in 2010 and they are lieing now. The Independents figured it out but it was to late to do anything about it. The question is are we going to be fooled again. I think the price is to high for us to be fooled again.

    This man would not know the truth if it tapped him on the shoulder. He only wants to be President and figures the GOP and corporations will do the hard work of running the country once he gets in. Just like Bush.

    February 1, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  20. Fearless Freep

    Wont have to fix the safety net when he gets rid of it.

    February 1, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. Indy

    I feel sorry for anyone that thinks Romney cares about the middle class, he talks about the middle class but never offers a viable solution. Romney cares about corporations and the free market, if he cared about the middle class he would agree to end the Bush tax gifts to the rich that have never created employment for the middle class like Republicans have been promising since the tax gifts were given by Bush. Romney care for the middle class as much as we all cared for Bin Laden or Kdafhi

    February 1, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. NVa Native

    New flash: When a group of people are travelling together, it's frequently cheaper to charter a plane than to buy a whole bunch of tickets.
    another there you go again Mr GOPer, saying some thing that could be true – but in the real world most of us live in – NOT TRUE!

    February 1, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Fearless Freep

    *** WOW ***

    Read below people, we had this garbage 8 years under Bush and it didnt work.


    Which would you rather have.... Welfare and food stamps and promises of free health care... or a Job? The only way to bring jobs and business back to the US is by making the US more appealing to business creators. that means. lower taxes and lower regulations. Those are the cold hard facts people. Obama is doing it all backwards. Romney is exactly what this country needs right now to get people back to work.

    No, i think Bush did it all backwards,

    February 1, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. Hidden In Plane Sight

    Thank God, in my life time i will see the death of the Republican party.
    Lets hope that the death is quick and painless for all of us.
    Time to evolve.

    February 1, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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