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. Mr. Moderate

    Context??? When has that every been done in politics. It have never been a courtesy given to the current president. Case in point – you guys LOVE that "clinging to guns and religion" comment, but NEVER mention he concluded that statement with the words "and I respect those frustrations." Welcome to the big time Mitt. Keep talking, you're a walking campaign commercial.

    February 1, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. Karen


    Most of the comments postedon here are made by people that hear what they want to hear and they hate Obama (romney) where he does this or whether he does that. Good luck with the brainwashing, it's obviously being somewhat effective.

    February 1, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |

    February 1, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. HomeSweetHome

    Sorry Mitt, CA told one other Rep where she should go when she tried to "buy" the Gov seat. I am sure the real "American People" will do the same to you.

    When I think of the good all that money could have done for the middle class and poor, it makes me sick to look at these two liers.

    February 1, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  4. Debby

    Well Gingrich will cut food stamps so who is the better evil. lol

    February 1, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  5. David in Houston

    The "very poor" of today, were middle income a year or two ago. It doesn't take very long to deplete your savings when you loose your job. Not many can say that they have two or three years of income stored up. So, who is the very poor by his standard? Is he talking about those that have very low paying jobs... but employed nontheless? I don't think so. I think the "unemployed" is who he listed as those he wants to focus on. Well, when you are unemployed and not earning a salary, you drop out of class distinctions. Isn't class based on income? To me, the unemployed who have depleted their savings "are" the very poor.

    February 1, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Bessy

    Oh Sure ! " Taken out of context ". Not one thing this man says can be trusted because he will just lie about it 5 mins. later. I really don't understand the American people who would vote for a man like this.

    February 1, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  7. SallyinChicago

    Romney = foot in mouth disease.
    There are lot of so-called middle class who were making a lot of good money, who are now at the food pantry and could be considered "poor." Are they not going to be helped? Does he not care about them?

    February 1, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  8. FLIndpendent

    The number of "words taken out of context" that Mitt has had so far in this campaign is really quite disturbing since he's been running for 6 years. One would think he should know exactly what his positions are on any given subject and be able to communicate those in a very coherent manner. So, given the fact that he's been campaigning for years and still has all these "slip ups", why in the world would we want this guy as our President and Commander in Chief? Can you imagine what would come out of his mouth when talking to other leaders!

    February 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. SallyinChicago

    "Whomever convinces the middle class that they are on their side in this election will win. Period."

    Chuck, the problem is that a lot of the middle class have lost their good paying jobs and are now the Poor. Don't you read the news?

    February 1, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  10. Two and the door for House Republicans!!!

    @Lulu0826 you hit the nail on the head, I have said this about him from the start!! Romney has nothing else to do, I mean the dude has money and don't need to work at all. He did the Governor role and now he just want the job of President just to have another notch in his belt to say i did it. He is nothing but a Bush junior in the waiting. I guarantee if this guy win the national election(which he won't but if he did) this Country is DONE!! I mean to say some crap like that and you suppose to be a Mormon, a Christian I think not!!!. PLEASE send this idiot home!!

    February 1, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Cedar Rapids

    Moaning about context now? From the guy whose party claims Obama says Americans are lazy and that the US is not a christian country? That sort of context Mitt?

    February 1, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. Gloria

    These guys need to watch what comes out of their mouths! You'd think they'd learn by now...I cannot even imagine President Obama saying such a stupid thing.

    February 1, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. AliceFromFlorida

    Come on folks! Stop hating on this guy!

    You know what he meant if you read the context.

    February 1, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. cecilia

    right right right – you never mean what you say and you never meant to say you liking firing people and you did not have anything to do with the awful ad against Newt ( although I could not care less) I bet you are unaware of the wall street biggies who are buying you – is it really true that ignorance is bless

    February 1, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. James

    Message to the folks on this article: read the whole thing

    February 1, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  16. Joanne Michels

    If he is so concerned about middle class Americans why is it not reflected in his tax plan? From what I've read from a number of different sources there are lots of tax cuts that only higher income folks could take advantage of and there is the possibility that the poor and lower end middle class could be paying more taxes (considerably more) and it would make the national debt grow even more.

    February 1, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. Tom Joad

    What a pity, Mitt just alienated all 5 working class people who were going to vote for him. Oh well, they probably would have come to their senses sooner or later.

    February 1, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  18. tor5

    I don’t have anything against Romney, and do think it’s unfair to take one bad sentence and make an issue out of it. But it’s still hard not to get the sense that he’s out of touch. Having $250 million puts you in a different world, and the fact is that his policies disproportionately benefit the superrich. His main thing seems to be deregulating financial markets, which just so happens to be a big gift to his Wall Street buddies (the same guys who caused the big crisis). What does Romney really have to offer the middle class, let alone the poor? It's all just worthless campaign slogans.

    February 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  19. Lenny Pincus

    Trying to make sense out of Mitt Romney is impossible. He has said so many inane, hypocritical, and just plain stupid remarks that you can only draw one conclusion: it must be pretty easy to be a vulture capitalist.

    February 1, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. camper

    There was no "gaffe" here. The airhead Soledad O'Brien simply took Romney's full statement totally out of context. She is a relic of CNN's past and should be treated as such.

    February 1, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    If he cares so much about the middle class, why does his tax plan make the rich richer and increase the load on everyone else? So they can "create jobs"? There are two kinds of jobs these guys create: minimum wage jobs and Chinese jobs.

    February 1, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. Sheila - Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA

    When he was running for Governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney, made many of the same promises that he is now making to the people of the United States.

    He left the task of actually fulfilling those promises to our current Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, who delivered where Romney failed.

    Governor Romney left office with a 21% approval rating and did so much harm to the Republican party in Massachusetts, not even prominent GOPer's from the Commonwealth seek to endorse him.

    February 1, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. Elizabeth

    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 ?

    How do you even define the middle class? People use that term all the time, but it’s never clear what they mean by that. It isn’t only about the very poor but where the working poor and middle class are also worried they are one disaster away from heading. The comment doesn’t make sense on any level. He supports the safety nets and will fix them, not reform them, but just patch them up a little. The safety nets are not working. They are not helping people transition out of poverty to become productive and prosperous individuals.

    February 1, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. Bob

    Romney, showing complete and utter lack of concern for "context", took a remark President Oabama said quoting McCain OUT OF CONTEXT, RAN IT IN AN AD, AND REFUSED TO PULL THE AD.

    Sorry, Mittens, suck it up, boy. You have NO ROOM to complain.

    February 1, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  25. Jay Sidebotham

    The comment is shameful

    February 1, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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