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. FactCheck

    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.

    FACT: 400,000 jobs lost per month during the final days of the Bush administration.
    FACT: 3.2 million jobs created since Obama took office.

    Maybe you should actually do some real research instead of parroting RNC talking points... but then, that would require having a brain.

    February 1, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. Expat American

    Romney does not need to worry about amending his millionaire statements; because every single Republican who voted for him thus far, and who intends to vote for him in the general election is already a millionaire. There isn’t a single Republican voter out there, who tosses out terms like ‘socialism’ as they walk to their mailbox to pick up their food stamps and welfare check that was signed by a Democrat….

    February 1, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. Dilip Samuels

    The problem with the GOP and Romneys is that they are the party for a few Americans ( millionaires)
    They will be toxic to ordinary Americans

    February 1, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. Mark1

    The context is that Romney is a schmuck.

    February 1, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. binky42

    I understood what he meant, and honestly I think it's the best thing that has come out of his mouth in MONTHS! The poor do have plenty of support. We need to support the middle class to prevent more people from joining the ranks of the poor. That should be the first priority for this country.

    February 1, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. joAmerican

    It doesn't help that the media takes his words out of context

    February 1, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. John Judish

    Tell that to the folks that push their shopping carts full of meager scraps past my window every day you filthy rich, arrogant jerk.

    February 1, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. King

    LOL! I luv MItt Romney, At least he is honest, he is coming out and telling americans i love the rich the banks and the corporation. These are his people everybody else including the poor are irrelevant.

    He is speakng from the heart and he is being very truthfull. So Mitt I love you man Keep Talking!!! For all of you that say OBAMA is the worst president ever! You now have a choice VOTE MITT ROMNEY. THE MAN OF THE PEOPLE! LOL!

    February 1, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  9. joAmerican

    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.

    February 1, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. 19random35

    The whole GOP platform is about attacking the poor. What else is to be made of the argument that half the population doesn't pay income tax, and thus we need to get more tax dollars out of the poorest Americans rather than the richest? Obviously that's an "anti-poor" policy. Could some poor Republican please articulate for me why you're gonna vote for Romney? And don't just say it's cause he's 100% white vs. 50% white.

    February 1, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  11. LacrosseMom(real one)

    The Republicans have a long, long history of not caring about the poor, the elderly, the sick, children, etc., Why does Mitt not own up to his comment? You can spin it, Mitt, but we know that the GOP as a whole if given power in all three branches of the government would have children working as janitors (like Newt suggests), our Elderly begging on the streets, the numbers of poor would double or triple, etc. There is no compassion for the poor, the sick, the elderly, children in the GOP agenda. That's the TRUTH!

    February 1, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. Penguin

    Mittens never stops flip-flopping.

    February 1, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. Florida Joe

    Mitt are you kidding me? YOU put up a commercial that said that Obama said "If we keep talking about the economy we'll lose" and yet it was McCains camp? Are you kidding me......Now I know you want to be President, I know you will say anything the current audience wants to hear example One day: We should let the foreclosure process take it’s course, let investors buy up the properties and then the people can RENT THEM?”
    You come to Florida and sit down with people with this same issue and you tell them, “We need to help these folks stay in their homes”………so STOP IT All you do is lie
    Problem here is you said what you really think and then you realize it might upset people
    I think your motto should be “LET THEM EAT CAKE>>>>WHAT’S THE PROBLEM

    February 1, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. apple pie

    Sorry, Slick Mitt, your clarification is unconvincing. You don't give a dam about the poor, just say it. If you did, you'd be able to pin point where there are flaws in our public policy. You haven't given the thought the time of day. Why would you? You can't relate.

    February 1, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. Al-NY,NY


    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

    sorry "Jo" but the drivel you spouted here "Obama is killing jobs w/ regulations and higher taxes" is proven to be nothing but a big lie perpetrated by the riighties and their rich donors and corporate fat-cats. in case you haven't been awake for the past 30+ years, "trickle-down economics" does NOT work and a conservative group has debunked the "regulations kills jobs" baloney. Try again

    February 1, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  16. Paul

    Even though I understand what he is saying, he sure has a way of saying things that are going to hurt him when he comes in front of Obama. Everyone is scared of losing their home and losing their job, the safety net will be full of holes if it comes under more pressure. Though he is right we need to focus on strengthening the middle class, his demeanor and comments give the impression that he doesn't really care.

    February 1, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. commentary42

    No problem, the poor can always eat cake.

    February 1, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  18. Riotous

    How can you tell Mittens is done talking?

    Both sides of his mouth stop moving.

    February 1, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. Patrick

    I’m no fan of Romney; the man is a corporate shill. However this is a pretty weak attack on him. I see no issue with his comment. The far lefties are as bad as the far righties. They are latching on to this because they have little else.

    >Moderate independent.

    February 1, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. communicator1453

    He acknowledged there are holes in the net. Doesn't that mean he SHOULD be concerned for the very poor? Hello! Republicans, if this is the best you can muster, get ready for another four years of Obama! That's right. I said it! Obama in 2012.

    February 1, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  21. Nick

    No way to spin this; His remarks showed how callous he is towards the poor.

    February 1, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. LOL

    FactCheck, you must live in a very happy world.

    February 1, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. stevev

    If you believe that, I've got some 'dry' land in the everglades for sale.

    February 1, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. Mitt is a Git

    There are so many issues with Mitt I don't have enough room to name them. The one thing that I am concerned about is Mitt's broken record talk about how he cares about America. If he cared, why did he do nothing on his own with his many millions to help the economy back 4 years ago? If he has the job creating skills and can build companies up to be sucessful, why didn't he? You don't have to be president to do those things.

    He has all the money he and his family will ever need. His sons have never worked a day in their pampered lives, and he hasn't really either–he was attending meetings with lawyers, etc. and came up with ways to disect compaies and sell them off–forget about the people who lost their jobs in the name of "responsible downsizing'. He is only in this for the power. His father was never president, and like John McCain, still has something to prove to him.

    The presidency is for someone who deserves to be president, it is not for someone who covets it for the fame and glory. Mitt would buckle in a second if he was put under pressure the way President Obama is currently under pressure on how to handle Iran. He could not handle a national emergency or international incident at all. He stupidly said he would bomb them (bomb, bomb, bomb Iran). Let him run for governor in any of the states where he owns large houses–he is not fit to be president.

    President Obama 2012. We need intelligence, not a narcissitic plutocrat.

    February 1, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. animal48

    Open mouth...insert foot.


    February 1, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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