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. mike

    wow!!!!! i love this man!!! its pure comedy

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

    Mitt ... the gift to the Democratic party that keeps on giving lol. Give this out-of-touch zillionaire enough rope and he will hang himself. The coldest, lacking any core principles, flip flopper ever.

    February 1, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. longtooth

    No need to take his words out of context. Just watch his mind race as he tries to appear sincere. If he gets the nomination, there is no doubt he'll provide abundant soundbites for the opposition. His Freudian slips will be endless. I think any average American could beat him in an open debate.

    February 1, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. Jeff

    PEOPLE don't be so dumb to not hear a whole sentence. What he said absolutely needs context, and I agree with what he said, the middle class is what suffers the worst in this country and there is a safety net for the poor and you know what I am so sick of people feeling that they are entitled to everything, the poor live off the middle class and the rich, and 9 times out of 10 they are poor for the chioces they made in their lives. Leave it to CNN to try and spin it this way. I mean who do you guys think you are fooling? Do you think that we are all uneducated and dumb? Not me.

    February 1, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. Stella

    I beleive Romney is correct. If middle class becomes poor because of no jobs high taxes and so on..., then the programs for the poors will vanish. Think, really think, who pays for all the programs that the poor class is benefiting? Yes– It is from the money the middle class is providing.

    February 1, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. seriously???...no, seriously??

    Wow…NEVER thought in a MILLION years I would say this, but the guy is actually right. Clearly anybody who focuses on the “not concerned about the very poor” part is taking that out of context. I would never vote for the guy—I’m an independent “middle of the road” kind of guy…fiscally conservative, but socially liberal… but come on, enough with the foolishness already. This is just playing to the ignorant, too lazy to read and comprehend crowd…from BOTH sides.

    February 1, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  7. John Henson

    "They have a safety net." This man's condescension knows no boundaries. Reminds me of Marie Antoinette and her immortal words, "Let them eat cake."

    Hey, didn't they chop her head off for saying that? Maybe SHE was taken out of context, too!

    February 1, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. NoKidding

    Wow, he sounds like a democrat!!! What's up with that!

    February 1, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. RJ

    Romney obviously loves the poor and homeless; look at how many folks he has helped become such. Romney asserts that there are the poor and homeless in every society and can be used to walk on while crossing mud puddles.

    February 1, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. J-Alabama


    President Obama said alot of things in his campaign and has done a great job on living up to some of those promises...he cares for America as a whole not 1% of it...but I see how some people can take his statements...broadcast his supposed failures and ignore his many accomplishments and brush them under the rug....you better believe in his next term those so called broken promises will be mended when he gets the people he deserves in Congress to help instead of hender.

    February 1, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. Rick Santoram

    And he says that he is against socialism! What is this if not socialism? Taxing the rich for money and giving it to poor in name of safety nets is the biggest form of socialism. How is he different from Obama. he is no tmoderate even. He i sjust plain old liberal in guise of a republican. How many times he flippedflopped his own party? After all, he is a politician who cares for his own skin.

    February 1, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. Realistic85

    Strange, I'm in that middle class he's talking about and I haven't been hurt by the "Obama Economy". I was hurt more during the Bush economy when my house fell 35% in value and the stock market was bottoming out...

    February 1, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  13. Laverne

    This clown has taken so many of Obama's words out of context that it isn't even funny and now he is talking about someone taking his words out of context. Just like he is attacking Newt for attacking him, when all he has done is attack and ran very negative ads. This guy is the biggest flip flopper I have seen and he is so desperate for the nomination, he would commission his people to physically kill someone if he had to in order to win. It is very sad to watch this guy in action and think he has a chance of becoming president, but if Newt has anything to do with it, he won't be and I don't even like Newt, but hope he crushes Romney like a used soda can!

    February 1, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  14. Anon-i-mouse

    While I have no use for Romney or his policies, I have to give him a pass on his wording. It sure looks to be taking it completely out of context. That being said, I don't think he actually gives a flip about the poor or the middle class. He only cares about his rich buddies and making sure corporations do well so his portfolio can continue to grow.

    I really hope that those of you who are "values voters" or "anti-abortion voters" realize that the GOP don't care about those things. They use them to suck you in to vote for them. The rest of their patform is counter to all things humane.

    February 1, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. IndeePendant

    (He is) 'taking the poor our of the context' of elections. This whole thing is about Wall Street, not about Main Street, for Romney. He is neither Conservative, nor a moderate. He is a Businessman being sent by Wall Street to dafeguard their interests from politicians. Look at the Super PACs supporting him and his friends from Wall Street contributing to his election coffers.

    February 1, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  16. WAHEID

    What a pathetic lot of GOP candidates! And still there is the evangelical-conservative base supporting them, which is even more pathetic.

    February 1, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  17. Sasha

    By the Romney campaign's own criteria, his comments are fair game.

    February 1, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  18. hogg

    OOPS! This time Romnie stepped in it.

    February 1, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    Yes, it does need more context...to wit:

    Extremely rich white blowhard opportunist flip-flopping political panderer corporate robot wh-re is completely out of touch with reality and the daily struggles and experience of average middle class families and occassionally lets fly with Freudian slips that reveal how he really feels about the vast majority of the populace over whom he seeks rulership, which he views as the unwashed paeon serf masses.

    February 1, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  20. Akeso

    Romney's problem is his inability to understand that many of his cherished "middle class" have sunk into the "very poor class". The safety net has been effectively dismantled since Reagan's times. Romney does not have a concept of "poor", his world view is based in his wealthy upbringing and corporate success. Thus, his interests are not connected to the true America, which is experienced by millions in this country.

    February 1, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. Kiki

    The poor have no bread? Let them eat cake!

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

    That safety net for the poor you refer to, Mr. Romney, is under attack from your very own Republican party. The ones whose votes you are desperately seeking. How do we know you won't flip-flop again and throw the poor under the bus, too?

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

    King Romney want his " subjects" to call him Sire. Do you really think this man understands the average American? He by definition lives in a different world. I doubt that he even talk to many people who are poor or even middle class. I just don't trust a person who is a " calibrated weather vane". He is a panderer that will change his position to fit the moment. That is not what I desire in a LEADER. He lives in the Billionaires club and has no understanding of reality. He should be forced to take a polygraph, then release the last 12 years of his tax returns( like his father). After all what is he hiding?. Because of the Citizens United fiasco passed by the Supreme Court this play right into the hands of the Billionaire's Club. Before long they will own a lot more than 40% of the wealth and we stood by and watched them screw us. Shame on all of us.

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

    Romney don't even know what a shovel is for, this guy will make a great president, NOT!!

    February 1, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  25. RodRoderick

    Mr. Rommney: please define for us who you consider "middle class". Is it the 100k to 300K range???

    February 1, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
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