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. dyg

    Romney fails to realize the transition from middle class to very poor can be brutally swift these days. What plans does he have to repair this safety net? If he's following the GOP party line he'll want to remove it.

    February 1, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Ambrose Smith

    Romney took Obama's words out of context when Obama was imitating John McCain. Now he wants the media to not take his own words out of context.

    February 1, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. TheTraveler

    "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."

    I can hear the conversation now (with an apology to Charles Dickens):

    "Are there no prisons?"
    "Plenty of prisons..."
    "And the Union workhouses." demanded Mittens. "Are they still in operation?"
    "Both very busy, sir..."
    "Those who are badly off must go there."
    "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
    "If they would rather die," said Mittens, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

    February 1, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Lolo

    The republicans do not care what their candidates say, heck 38% of them just want someone to beat Obama. It definitely is not Romney. Romney is the puppet and Newt is the attack dog. Romney is not sincere about anything that concerns the American people and will not get my vote period!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 1, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. Alejandro

    He meant 'poor company's' .. you know the ones only making 1-100M

    February 1, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. yogi

    @ Debbie, you are spot on.
    Typical GOP first you do the damage and then you apologize for it with a smirk on your face. Romney said exactly what he meant, just didn't think of the consequences. He will make sure that the holes in the safety get bigger and bigger if he would be elected, that if is equal to no way.
    There is only one way to ensure dignity, vision, compassion and intelligence in the White House for the next four years:

    February 1, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. judith

    Richie Rich just showed his true colors. What a selfish, greedy and vile man. Of course, he doesn't care about the poor–he's a despicable corporate robot disguised as a human being.

    February 1, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. needNewGov

    ooops! there goes the poor vote, as long as they have photos IDs that is. Freudian slip perhaps 'ol Mitty.

    February 1, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. jsmoulder

    To bad the media does not grab hold of obama's screwed up remarks and leave him out to dry. But he is a Democrat so they never will.

    February 1, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. Demotage

    I certainly understand the importance of context. But does anyone remember Romney's use of the Obama statement about not wanting to talk about the economy? Well after that, Romney gets no free passes on things being taken out of context. Live by the sword Mitt......

    February 1, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  11. J-Alabama

    Defending this "Man of God"...saying his words were taken out of context are ridiculous. So now are we saying what we really feel, OUT LOUD, and then saying it was taken for the wrong meaning. I can't read minds but I can hear want your mind says through your mouth.

    And my, "Man of God" statement......feel free to take it out of context.

    February 1, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. ALPHA

    Would this be like Mr. Obama telling us we were in the "summer of recovey"? Or that he guessed there were no "shovel ready jobs" after all.

    February 1, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  13. RunnerMD

    People see and hear what they want to see and hear. Then there is the disconnect between what was actually seen/heard and what the condidate actually believes. In the end, Mitt looks the part and will win the nomination. The who knows? It sad that there are really probably some great potential leaders in our country who would never even think to run because of the personal toll a career in politics takes. Imagine if someone with a mind like Steve Jobs ran the country? Will never happen though. Sad.

    February 1, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. DaveinPA

    Romney is completely out of touch. He can't even relate to the middle class. The poor might as well be space aliens to him.
    Ironic, since he's so good at creating chain stores with minimum-wage jobs.

    February 1, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. Nunya

    Funny that the libs and dirty sanchezes (my pet name for the OCW people) are jumping all over his comment and clarification but forget the promises the Chosen One made once he was actually elected and hasn't stepped up to or has ignored. Statements like he would close down Gitmo in his first year (still open with no plan to close) and he was the person to fix the economy (still broken and now he has nothing but excuses and blame). Where is the outrage for his actual broken promises.

    And no, I am not a Republican. Independent – thank you very much.

    February 1, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  16. marcia

    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!

    February 1, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. Data Driven

    Defend him if you want, conservatives, but this Freudian Slip is, as he himself said about Gingrich yesterday in a different "context", "painfully revealing".

    Speaking of "context", is the media going to call him out on how one of his ads quoted Obama out of context in a similarly ticky-tacky, unfair manner?

    February 1, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  18. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Probably more concerned about MAKING everybody else poor...

    February 1, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. Jill-IN

    I've never heard a word out of Romney's mouth to indicate he is for the middle class. We don't buy it.

    February 1, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. Joe

    Corporations are people Poor people are not.

    February 1, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  21. Joyce

    This man has no sympathy for the poor, I hope the democrats run with it. . The dirt he plastered on Gingrich should tell people this man is no good. Grant it Gingrich is equally mouthy and would like to drown Obama in his filthy pot .

    February 1, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  22. Maria

    This man is a complete fraud. This cold man has shown his true colors. I still don't see why he wants to be president. He is a complete fraud.

    February 1, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  23. RJ

    In a preview of Romneys next speech, there seems to be some division in the camp. Romney starts by saying "Bring me your tired, your poor: and I will cut their support and send their jobs overseas". Writers assert that he should just lead the crowd in a chant of "four more year, four more years".

    February 1, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Maria

    Fraud, Fraud!! PHONEY PHONEY BOLONY!

    February 1, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. 4 More Years!!!

    Mittens is always "Clarifying" what he said. What a joke and pathetic frontrunner for the GOP!!!

    February 1, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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