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. Boomer46

    Romney's not focused on the poor? He's focused on the "middle class" the "other 95%??? I'm sure that the fellow he blew off on camera who asked him what he offered the 99% would be interested in that! Look it up, I'm sure it's available on CNN. He very nastily told the fellow that "America's right and you're wrong, my friend!" REALL? The 99% are "wrong" and I guess they're not Americans either, eh? Anyone who votes for this clueless idiot is doing it out of sheer racism against Obama, unless they are in Romney's elite tax and income group. Ritchie Rich has NOTHING to offer either the poor OR the rapidly shrinking middle class. I'm sure the poor would love to know that they have nothing to worry about since they have "an adequate safety net." Why doesn't he go undercover for JUST ONE DAY as a poor white male, and see just how adequate that safety net is. What a boob.

    February 1, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. joAmerican

    Liberals obviously do not understand how businesses work.
    ok picture this...you have your own cookie selling business. You have several employees and want to expand further ...but obama will soon be forcing you to pay for health care for all those employees. Every employee you hire will mean more costs. plus obama wants to raise taxes on you which will leave you with less money to survive let alone expand. Inflation is causing all of your ingredients to go up in cost. You can not raise the price of your cookies because it will scare off customers. so you will have to either a. move your company to mexico to save in labor costs or b. start laying people off. or c. close shop. That is the way business works. If you want more jobs you have to make the country more hospitable for business owners by lower costs and regulations. It is simple economics people.

    February 1, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. gino

    Mittens the Twit knows nothing at all about the poor. He would put them on top of the car just like his dog.

    February 1, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  4. Powercred

    There are so many inconsistencies when you try to understand his stance with respect to everything else he has claimed he wants to do. While there is a 'safety net' he actually has problems with a lot of that net and wants to remove it. He also wants less government but wherever it pleases him with his voter base he wants his government to do something about it. He says the rich are fine and can take care of themselves but wants their taxes to be lowered. He has his poor and rich government all mixed up. I am not sure of his management skills now when looking at his comments.

    February 1, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  5. Woman In California

    @ anotherGDlefty

    I'll worry about Willard being quoted in context when FOXPAC worries about the president being quoted in context.

    Good luck Willard, I hope you get the nomination because there is no way the evangelical TEA nuts would ever vote for you because of your chosen religion.
    Those are the people you are counting on to help and they hate you.

    Sadly, I would love to think that-but it is becoming MORE AND MORE apparent there are "those" in society who would vote for ANYONE to get "this" president out of office. Make no mistake-when the time comes-and it will-they will ALL gather together in the name of Jesus (unbelievable as that is) and vote AGAINST our president. We MUST be ready to stand up AGAINST them and their hatred.

    February 1, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    I guess the poor do not vote. I guess the poor enjoy living with the "safety net". I guess the poor don' count.

    February 1, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  7. blarkin

    Poor Mittens he should stick to singing off key patriotic songs better chace of not sticking foot in mouth

    February 1, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  8. Phil in KC

    The way the Republicans gutted the programs for the poor, there aren't just holes; it's freakin' sieve. And I have no confidence whatsoever that any Republican will do anything to fix it.

    February 1, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  9. Name

    I'm not voting for Romney – and I have lots of empathy for the unions, the poor, etc. But fair is fair. Romney's comment was A-OK.

    That said, all candidates need to focus on struggling homeowners.

    February 1, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  10. Frank222

    This does not sound consistent with Romney's 'anti-entitlement' campaign platforms
    "In the same way by cutting welfare spending dramatically, I don’t think we hurt the poor." -Romney, NY Times, 12/25/11
    Maybe he meant "blah" people not "poor" people ?

    February 1, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  11. Maine LIberal

    Mitt give it up. you have no idea about the "context" of your words.

    |Foodstamps make you rich
    Welfare provides lavish living
    Unemployment benefits make you no want to work

    Your "unemployed" too

    Miit put this in context. you llve on welfare/foodstamps for one month (the equivelent for your state)

    February 1, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "Which would you rather have.... Welfare and food stamps and promises of free health care... or a Job?"

    Mmmmmmmm...false dichtomoy tastes like chicken....mmmm nom nom nom....

    February 1, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. bryan

    As one that identifies as a social democrat, meaning I don't identify with the democratic party, I like romney when he was a liberal republican, from what I see he diverted from the norm and did some good for his state as well as not bowing to useless ideology of the rest of his party, and for a republican that takes some gut. Why he ever thought he had to change to appease such a small fraction of republicans is beyond me, he was the perfect candidate to try divert the republican party's direction, no he's no more than a lying panderer. Regardless of you "context" you are out of touch, the poor as well as the rest of the country need better social services, not to be demonized as lazy and good for nothings. Just save us the circus and let the democrats and progressives do what they promised the people, we are tired of your useless and archaic ideology.

    February 1, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  14. us1776

    We got the right message, Mitt.

    After all, he was referring to those making less than $375,000/year which isn't much money.

    Right Mitt?


    February 1, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  15. Honestly

    So strange, but I find myself really liking his awkward honesty. Should I feel bad for agreeing with him?

    February 1, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  16. scottf

    OOPS!! Romney can't even think in terms of the middle class, yet alone the poor. He is what he is. -A wealthy out of touch bored man who wants the spotlight his father had. Just like W.

    February 1, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. Debra

    Get ready for more of these. Perhaps America's most successful chameleon. He is so clueless, he doesn't even know the many ways his words do damage. He'll have to have people picking up the pieces everyplace he goes. Stop throwing your trash on America, Republicans.

    February 1, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  18. Marry

    When you see Mitt in a “crowd”, you can see the disgust and his face says: You stupid suckers, cheering me, good that I will never have to see you again when I am in the WH or in my country club. My buddies and I will have a good laugh looking at the show. And you people will never get in my gated community – perhaps to clean the house or mow the lawn – in that case you can even be illegals as long as nobody knows and you are real cheap!
    President Obama 2012!

    February 1, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  19. ShawnDH

    Good old 1% Mittens. Who would expect anything else? This guy is so elitist and entitled that it blows my mind. He'll never be president, and he sure doesn't deserve to be.

    February 1, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  20. Dan Halen

    I don't think he should be worried about the "holes" in the poors' safety net. He should be more concerned with the fact that the net never springs them back up to where they aught to be.

    February 1, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. hansdick

    There are nearly 50 million people in the US living in poverty and perhaps $5million making $250K+. Romney says he wants to concentrate on the 95% of Americans who dhe says are strugling. ie 295 million people. There is something significantly wrong with this guy's arithmetic. Somebody check the books at his businesses

    February 1, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  22. Ron

    He's concerned enough about the wealthy to want to give them and himself huge tax breaks. He paid 13.9%. With his proposals, he would pay even less.

    February 1, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    I think most people have missed the point. Mitt Romney is not being criticized for his words at all. It is understood, without question, that he wants to focus on the middle class for legitimate reasons. Romney feels the poor in this country have adequate protecitons already in place. He's not slamming or ignoring the poor.

    The point is that Mitt Romney has taken his opponents words grossly out of context. Using then Sen. Obama quoting Sen. McCain from the 2008 general election was terribly misleading, and Mitt Romney was proud of it. At the time, Romney had said that that was the point. Now Romney's words offer up a softball to anyone

    February 1, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. jaywing

    So we have a rich guy, supported by other rich guys, telling middle class Americans falling into poverty and the porr already there, that their problems aren't something he's concerned about. Really.... REALLY? This is the same guy who's been telling the middle class that we should be blaming the poor for being poor, and that somehow all our economic problems are the fault of the poor. This man is totally clueless, unethical and without much doubt, a closet racist. Why would anyone support a man running for US President who is completely and unabashedly antithetical to all things American?

    February 1, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  25. Boomer46

    Joamerica, let me tell you how businesses REALLY work: supply and demand. The more you cut jobs, benefits, and wages, the less purchasing power the American people have. Conversely, the better the consumer does, the more they have to spend at your business. It's really simple. Not only that, but you'd be surprised to learn that in the 1950s, about 40% of wage earners were in unions, and most people had medical benefits. And these Americans bought things that were made in America for Americans. And they were loyal to their employers. The better the American people do, the better businesses will do. Taxes have absolutely nothing to do with it. Get a clue, okay?

    February 1, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
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