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. A Repulbican

    This man is not fit to be president, plain and simple. I'm not voting this year, I wil not give this flip-flopper, two-faced, out of touch person my vote or anyone else who doesn't deserve it. It's so said that this is all we have on this side to pick from...

    February 1, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. GOP = Greed Over People

    The whole sentence states Mr. 1% does not care for the very poor or the very rich.

    How can that be "taken out of context"?

    Just a window onto how the 1% feel about the rest of us.

    February 1, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  3. Independent Voters

    Romney is disgrace and he was born in Mexico which is a poor country.President Obama going to win by landslide.
    Poor people come out strong and vote for president Obama who cares about our country.

    February 1, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. Testy McTesterton

    Hrm, interesting. Whatever happened to "blessed are the poor" or the "what you do unto the least of them"? I suppose it's possible that the Book of Mormon doesn't have an equivalent. I wouldn't know, haven't read it. I always preferred fantasy to science fiction.

    February 1, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  5. Reggie from LA

    You hear that wealthy people. You're doing just fine. Now pay your fair share of taxes. Don't give me cr@p about the sum total the rich pay to a pool of taxes, I'm talking about a fair %age RATE! I get sick of that stupid cop out about the rich paying the majority. They should be paying majority, they have most of the money, duh! Now where was I? Wow! The poor have a safety net. Oh, I thought that was socialism. Duh on me. "I'll fix that" doesn't fly, Mitt. Your consituents hate poor people. You go trying to "fix that" and they'll turn on you using the most hateful wing. The Tea Party. Romney's whole campain is a series of "I can fix my last comment" and people let him get away with post facto damage control. Duh!!

    February 1, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |

    Willard, we are not suffering from the President's policies. We're suffering from greedy people like you who like to hide their taxes in off shore accounts. We're suffering because while the price of everything is going up, our paychecks are not. We're suffering because your party(GOBP) would rather give tax breaks to people who don't need them nor did they ask for them. If you're about helping the middle class Willard, ten why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act -aka- Obamacare when there are so many middle class families benefiting from it right now? You are not the right persn for the job. Kick rocks!!!

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    February 1, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Jake

    but let's clarify further....the programs that take of them are in jeopardy of being CUT under a Romney or any other of the terrible GOP alternatives! so, you DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE POOR!

    February 1, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  8. leanonit

    There it is he said he doesn't care about the poor at all. He does not deserve to be our president. He doesnt mean what he said about the rich because he is rich. Believe him people he really doesn't care about them, the poor I mean. OBAMA cares he can save this nation. The good thing is Obama knows the poor need the help Romney doesn't and he doesn't even care. 4 more years!!!

    February 1, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Kenneth Close

    Gee, I think this happened with an Agricultural agent, Hmmmmm....drop your comic books and read, the one word , authoritarian Shall we work on the Democratic ads.

    February 1, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  10. J-Alabama

    I am a waitress in my mid twenties... so I have to rely on tips to pay my car note, phone bill, and rent. Not on welfare or foodstamps and im very proud of that...I am taxed out the @SS because of people like you...I don't see a check because of my 2.13 an hour. So am I considered poor or middle class...how r u to determine who is which..I make my ends meet barely but I don't have my hand out like clearly the majority of america does according to you...by the way I have a degree in biology...what r ur plans on making college graduates find a job...I haven't heard your take on this issue!!!

    February 1, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  11. talbet

    I would love to hear in what context he thinks that statement would be acceptable.

    February 1, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. v_mag

    I have to say, this is pretty irrelevant. For me, there is only 1 statement Rom-money can make that will cause me to pay attention to him:

    "My fellow Americans, George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress crashed our economy and started 2 unnecessary wars. He and Dick Cheney should be indicted for war crimes."

    Until they get Bush behind them, there is no future in front of them. To deal with the problems of the Republican Party, they have to deal with the Bush legacy, because America will never forget.

    February 1, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. Bill

    What a shame Mittens, you will spend tens of millions of dollars and still will never be president.

    February 1, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. Dee

    He meant what he said and can't take it back because he said programs like food stamps help the poor yet he called President Obama a "Food Stamp President" just like Gingrich.

    You can bet the Democrats will come back and it will be his worst nightmare maybe he will stop flip-flopping.

    February 1, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  15. Philly Faust

    Listen well Republicans to who you are voting for and what he believes! Mitt wants to give tax breaks to the already wealthy and remove the frayed strands from the safety net. Under Mitt's plan the middle class will be the poor. He and Rep. Ryan can then make sure that there is no net to catch anyone. If you earn $57,000 a DAY you don't need a net. And Paul Ryan is putting in time now so he can cash out on K Street after the voters in his hometown realize he's doing them in for his own advancement.

    February 1, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. joAmerican

    The only way to bring back the middle class is to put them back to work. Obama is killing jobs with higher regulations and higher taxes! companies are going to leave! The only way to get people to get people working is to reduce regulations and cut taxes and make our country more business friendly. Those are the facts people.

    February 1, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. NameFffdss

    Nothing wrong with Romney's statement. It's sad the media thinks this is news.

    February 1, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  18. Me

    "Corporations are People too"
    "I'm not concerned about the very poor"
    "I like firing people"
    These are all statements made by Mitt Romney.

    Let us pray.
    Dear God, PLEASE LET NEWT OR MITT WIN! either one of these guys would be a cake walk for Obama.

    February 1, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  19. Chuck

    Listen – I am in no way a fan of Romney, and am for the most part a Democrat. But, listen more for what he means rather than what he said. He's right, the rich are doing fine and the poorest of us have a slough of programs and incentives directed at them. The middle class is largely ignored in the political spectrum, despite its vast majority.

    Think about it, it's easy to see that Republican policies impact the wealthy, and Democrats by and large focus on the poor. Who represents the middle class? Tax policy provides most credits/deducsion for lower income individuals, but most of these phase out for middle income folks. Grants and student aid are directed at the poor, lower middle income families don't qualify for grants. These are a couple examples of how the middle class is screwed by the system. We have "enough" money to pay for things on our own, but not enough to pay for these things and now worry.

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

    February 1, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. Diane

    I would rather have the safety net his son's have.A 100 million dollar trust fund.

    February 1, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. Mike Dallas

    But, but, but Mittens, it is the GOP that wants people to starve, or they would not be calling President Obama the "food stamp" President and again the GOP wants to cut aid to the "welfare queens" and their kids.

    So, now do you can understand why we already know you and the GOP "are not concerned with the very poor"?

    Just another inconvenient truth the 1%er has voiced.

    February 1, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  22. Reggie from LA

    @Cody Fire
    Are you kidding me? Romney is Hope? Romney is hope. Where's the little sarcasm sign, right?
    No, Obama is hope. You and the rest just need to get out of his way.

    February 1, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. Gotta Be Kiddin

    Only problem is that the Repubs are trying to get rid of the programs that help the very poor. I wonder if Romney even knows what programs exist that help the poor? Looks like he's walking in his dad's footsteps when it comes to trying to get his message across. Didn't work too well for his dad either!

    February 1, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  24. Den

    I'd be more convinced of Mitt Romney's credentials as a "job creator" if he had entrepreneurial experience to point to, rather than time as a money manager. There are plenty of money managers, many of whom are probably still looking for work after the blood-letting on Wall Street.

    February 1, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. Daniel L. McCullough

    He said it out loud...even taken in context it dosent sound good. We really need to look and hear just what is really being said but where their truth really lies. The desperation for a title, the truth is the President is to be a position of service...service and with this mindset, really who are men like him (don't even like saying his name he or the other one) or the other one are willing ... willing to serve.

    February 1, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
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