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. Anonymous

    The words came out of your mouth Romney. Own it. He has a excuse for EVERYTHING. I question his so called management skills that he brags about.

    February 1, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  2. Stacey

    Mr. Flip Flopper, you said exactly what you meant. You don't give a rat's patootie about poor people. Not to worry, though because you won't be POTUS.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    February 1, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. F-Gingrich

    How anybody can vote for this spineless, double talking, worm is beyond me. All this man cares about is money and what he can buy with it. I'll bet he can't even spell conviction. His words will continue to bury him even further. Come November, the election won't be close. Obama will bury him for good.

    February 1, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. Sue

    The problem is .....it is Romney and the rest of the republican party that is trying as hard as they can to undermine that very safety net....
    If they were so concerned they would not demonize people who are on food stamps and they would without any hesitation continue the unemployment insurance until unemployment picks up! Context doesn't matter....actions do!!!

    February 1, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. once upon a horse

    if anybody knows about taking "words out of context" it should be Mitt Romney. Most of his ads attacking Obama are due to taking words out of context and he seems to have no problem with it then.

    February 1, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  6. Justlove

    We all knew, he didn't care about the poor way before he even said it...He surely cares about the 1%.

    February 1, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. Abe

    What do you expect? This is the same guy who made fortune shutting down business and outsourcing factories to low cost cuntries including Mexico and China!!

    February 1, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  8. Jules

    Would this be the safety net that the GOP always wants to cut or do away with?

    February 1, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. Cade

    Yes... The words came out of his mouth, but you HAVE to take them in context. If he says the words "I hate people who are murderers", are you going to jump on him for saying "I hate people"? Are you then going to call him a hateful man who hate all people? Take stuff in context. This is ridiculous.

    February 1, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. Vinney47SLC

    I think Romney is right on here. There are many programs already in place to help the very poor, and by and large their situation hasn't changed all that much over the years. It is the middle class, middle income Americans that have been hit hard by the economic down turn and are in need of the most "help" from government – that is to say a government that will create a good economic environment. One that promotes job creation and sound footing for the American currency. Things Obama has failed on, and things that Romney could really be successful at.

    February 1, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  11. anotherGDlefty

    I'll worry about Willard being quoted in context when FOXPAC worries about the president being quoted in context.

    Good luck Willard, I hope you get the nomination because there is no way the evangelical TEA nuts would ever vote for you because of your chosen religion.
    Those are the people you are counting on to help and they hate you.

    Obama 2012
    Warren 2016

    February 1, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    "No, no, no, no," Romney said. "You've got to take the whole sentence, all right, as opposed to saying, ....."
    After being so proud and smug over the hatchet job *his* campaign did to an Obama speech where he quoted John McCain, Romney has the gall to say something like this? Be fair when you quote me? He's joking, right? He's smiling again, so he must be joking. I just know he doesn't think that we are all fools. Yet, he does have the "sucker!" smile on his face again.

    February 1, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. kdubb

    Flip-FLOP!!!! LOL
    Win Big, Gash BIG!
    This is a awesome reality show in the making!

    February 1, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Debbie

    Watched the clip. Romney once again speaks without thinking. Then when clarifies says he is not concerned about the poor because they have a safety net and if the net needs fixing they will look at it. Heads up Romney! The net is broken and your party the GOP wants to further tear it apart. So in essence you have no idea about the safety net. Then you go on to say "your campaign" is about the middle class. Not you Romney the person but "your campaign." Of course that is what "your campaign" says. Your actions though prove very very different. Born with a silver spoon in your mouth you have zero idea what it is like to be poor, middle class, or even rich because you are and have always been uber rich. Romney claims to be Christian but he is like Nicodemus...wants to follow Christ but when Christ tells Nicodemus to give up all his wealth, give it to the poor, and follow HIM, Nicodemus cannot. Romney is the same. If Romney is the GOP nominee I will vote Obama.

    February 1, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. R

    Too bad no one really paid attention to what he said after that though. Not that I care one bit about Romney (and I sure don't have any intentions on voting for him either), but this sure seems like a case where the reporters are focusing on only part of a sentence, instead of all of it.

    February 1, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    If you have to explain your statements and clairify them, you lost it. You need to have neat short sentances. I truly don't think that Romney understands the social safety nets. If he wants to fix them, then he needs to live on them for a week (or month) with no access to anything that he has currently.

    February 1, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  17. amy

    "We have programs to help the poor".
    The last time I checked, the republicans were wanting to cut those programs to help the poor. And we have charities so overwhelmed with demand....that there isn't enough to go around. So please, tell me again, how we are helping the poor. And why your not concern???

    February 1, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  18. Tired of republican lies

    That's because this jerk doesn't care one iota for us in the lower ranks...He is only for the rich...you see his SCOTUS approved undisclosed financing...don't tell me it's from us little people, because us little people will never give money, or vote for a disconnected person like him!

    February 1, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Tired of republican lies

    Just one more thing...I hope Obama runs with this!

    February 1, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Cody Fire

    He clarified it and it makes sense. He's used to defending his words since the Gingrich and Obama campaigns are trying to destroy the only hope America has.

    February 1, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. The Real Tom Paine

    I would hate to be his press secretary.

    February 1, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  22. Gurgi

    I have to give Romney this one. I listened to his speech and it is being taken out of context. He did say that if the poor's safety net has holes, he would fix it.

    February 1, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. NVa Native

    Typical Repub – repeating what some fox media celebrity told him through the TV.

    February 1, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  24. Gamechanger

    "Corporations are people my friend" "I enjoy firing people" "I'm not that concerned about the very poor"

    The trouble with campaigning is that you have to speak frequently. And sooner or later, you are going to stray from the carefully prepared script that a consulting firm put together for you. It is in these moments that we get a sense of the real person behind the candidate.

    February 1, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |

    A\ wise man once told me to "put your mouth in park and your brain in drive." You should follow that teaching Willard. You're not even a 1%er. You're worst!!! You're a 0.0006%er. You've never worked a hard day in your life.

    February 1, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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