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. TR

    "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

    You'll find it in Matthew, Mr. Romney.

    February 1, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    Oh yeah -- sleeping in those cars and under those bridges rates 5 stars, I guess.

    February 1, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Hypocrisy

    Safety net for the poor? Is that why you rightwing conservatives call President Obama a food stamp President? For passing a stimulus bill to rescue middle class and poor Americans stymied by the economic crisis your Republican Party created? Mitt Romney, never mind because will never be POTUS!

    February 1, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. anticomm

    be careful Romney, liberal media will take letters from different words to make you look like an enemy of humanity.

    February 1, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  5. Terry

    Wow, did anyone here listen to his speech? I see the left wing media is doing it again. Taking part of a line out of the speech and telling everyone that's all he said. Oh and yes I know not many people listened because 99% of the comments here were directed to a few words in a line of a line speech that if taken ONLY by themselves come out wrong, but if added to the rest of the line come out correct and fine. So for those of you who did not listen to the speech but only to the libs that picked a few words out here is the entire line...how about you listen this time:

    "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."

    Now I'l pause so you can read it a few times and then I'll explain the issue here.....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

    Okay that's enough time. Look at the quote...yes the words I do not care were used, but read the ENTIRE quite, he's not focused on the poor or the rich because the poor already have programs to help and the rich do not need help...it's the middle-class that needs the most help and rightly that's where he's focused. So before you all jump on the standard lib tactic of mis-quoting and mis-printing, how about you admit 99% of you only repeat what your lib friends tell you and ignore the pacts.

    February 1, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  6. myohmy

    Mitt Romney is correct. Middle class is the hardest hit. Half of the country does not pay taxes. Time for middle class to get some break.

    February 1, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  7. Don

    Only the Truly Brain Dead of the Walking Brain Dead Republican Circus would EVEN try to defend the words of this CLOWN as he tries to back pedal his way out of what he said and meant but now tries to cover up for. He ONLY stated the EXACT feelings of the WAlking Brain Dead Republican Circus but what the Circus tries to cover up. After all if they told their real feelings the Circus would be afraid of losing all the support of the truly Walking Brain Dead Poor who are now BRAINWASHED into doing the bidding of the Haves and the Have Mores at their own expense. But then this is why the first principle of the Circus is NO Brains Allowed!

    February 1, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. The Real Tom Paine

    of course, stephen, and FOX has never practiced gotcha journalism? Please, if Romney is that clumsey with the media after spending almost 6 years running for the presidency, he is either incompetant, arrogant, or both. He served that one up to the media, which is doing their job.

    February 1, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. speedyss

    Man, people just jump at everything Romney says. It makes perfect sense, what he wants to do. He wants to focus on the middle class, which represents the majority of the people. He has probably given more to charities than any other person running for office. To say he doesn't care about the poor is a gross misinterpretation of what he said.

    February 1, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. JustMe

    Sorry Romney, but I heard the entire quote straight from your mouth and it still left me bewildered that you would say that. Even with the explanation of safety nets and if there were holes in that safety net you would fix it to say what he did about the poor was just completely idiotic (for one thing in case he is not aware of it, a lot of the former middle class have now become poor – and no – its not thanks to President Obama, but thanks to his predecessor and all the obstruction Governor Romney's colleagues on the right side of the aisle in Washington have sought and succeeded in doing).

    February 1, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  11. Hypocrisy

    What Mitt Romney meant is he's not worried about non white poor Americans simply because the poor white trailor tra*sh are going to vote for him just like they did in the midterm elections to give the GOP the edge in the House so they can set up more roadblocks for the Obama administration. It doesn't matter how much these white folkes are struggling, their bigotry and hate always dictate how they vote and to which candidate they support.

    February 1, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. Scotty D

    What State will Romney sell first?

    February 1, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. stephen

    Democrats have a real knack for being led by the nose by very dishonest liberal activist reporters. No liberal posting here has actually read the article or listened to the interview. Soledad Obrian and CNN have very dishonestly and unethically spread this lie that is taken completely out of context. And Obrian had the gall to make the comment that she is always fair! She is always prejudiced!

    February 1, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |

    he is right...F' the poor....the middle class is the one who is struggling...

    February 1, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. TXJim

    "I'm not concerned about the very poor," Romney said.
    Tells you everything you need to know about Mitt Romney.

    February 1, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. Don

    Have you ever noticed how many times Romney says just exactly what he meant then has to back track because once he says his mind, which is very small, he realizes he told too much so tries to rush back in and pretend he didn't say what he did but he meant something else other than what he said? Only one of the Clowns of the Walking Brain Dead Republican Circus could ever believe that the rest of America is as brain dead as the Republican Circus, and then you see all the wannabe clowns gathering around trying to defend the ruling Fool Clown, Romney. How Pathetic are the Republican Circus anymore.

    February 1, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. Frankie

    Out of touch. This from a guy who ran a company who took peoples' pensions froze them, used them as collateral to make himself millions in the risky leverage deals he and his cohorts made millions and millions of dollars off the unfortunate ones who lost their livelihood. Jon Stewart has a mocking piece of Romney that is very telling.

    February 1, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. TM

    In Willard's World the "very rich" are those doing better than he is, the "heart of America" are those, like him, that pay %15 tax rates, and the "very poor" are everyone else. we know EXACTLY what you meant to say Willard, please be man enough to admit it.

    February 1, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  19. Hypocrisy


    Obama is killing jobs with higher regulations and higher taxes? First of all, this administration is yet to impose taxed on anyone and furthermore, if higher taxes and regulations kill jobs, then how did we end up with the current economic crisis under the GWB/GOP economic policies?

    February 1, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. Chris in Rosslyn

    Lived in Mass. when he was Governor there. The honeymoon ended shortly after he was elected. He spent his first two years cutting state income distrbutions to cities and towns. As a result, property taxes everywhere went up. Then he spent the second two of his 4 years out of state campaigning for President. At the end of his term, his approval ratings were lower than GWB. His anointed successor, Kerry Healey, got thumped in the election – she lost in every county.

    If snake oil is your thing, then Mitt is your man.

    February 1, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  21. TXJim


    "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

    You'll find it in Matthew, Mr. Romney.
    Or the White House..

    You know.. Obama was a millionaire before he became president.. but you wouldn't even know it..
    Romney is a mega millionaire.. and he makes sure he lets everyone know it as much as he can... even when he is trying not to do it.. again and again..

    February 1, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  22. Bob

    I watched Romney's interview and it was clear that was a wink to the Tea Party. It was a a not-so-subtle "You know who I mean. Don't vote for Gingrich and I'll have your backs against the people you don't want in your neighborhoods."

    February 1, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  23. JohnKC

    @joAmerican: lowering taxes does not create jobs. lowering regulations does not create jobs. DEMAND creates jobs. If you own a restaurant and you have 20 customers a day and one server who easily handles them and one cook who easily cooks for them, and you get a reduction in taxes, how is that going to encourage you to hire another waitress and/or another cook? WORD: IT'S NOT! The ONLY way you will create jobs (i.e., hire anyone) is if you get more customers. Lowering your taxes just makes you richer. Removing regulations, such as ensuring you serve meat that's actually been cooked properly, is not going to cause you to hire a single person.

    And if you want to suggest that lower taxes and reduced regulations encourages businesses to "in source" jobs because of the more attractive business environment, then you know nothing about business. ALL that does is create higher profits for the shareholders. Businesses who outsource do it because of labor costs, not taxes and regulations. That's a fabrication created by those catering to the rich.

    Simple axiom: DEMAND creates JOBS. Period.

    February 1, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. Don

    This is like shooting fish in a barrel, Obama running against the Walking Brain Dead Republican Circus, he cannot do anything wrong, all he has to do is sit back and wait for the latest Clown of the Walking Brain Dead Republican Circus to walk forward and open his mouth and insert his foot. God this Circus has to be the best Circus ever. They may not be able to find one in the midst of the brain dead who could even be dog catcher but the Palin disease has turned into an epidemic in the Walking Brain Dead Republican Circus, they all have Hoof in the mouth disease ROFLMFAO @ these Clowns!

    February 1, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  25. Mitt's grass is green because it's cash.


    Romney is a spineless lizard..just like Obama and all the rest. They are all criminals. We have absolutely no choice come this next election. Vote for an illegal with no US birth certificate, or vote for the other idiot...whoever that will be. Good bye good ol USA!
    Newflash for ya, there, Marcia, Hawaii is our 50th state. Might want to brush up on your geography.

    February 1, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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