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. Expat American

    Loren – Hillary’s platform was pretty similar to that of the President. So, we would pretty much be in the same place that we are had she been elected President – that is albeit slowly recovering from the Republican/Bush 8 year disaster.

    February 1, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  2. FedUp

    Anyone that makes less money than Romney is the "very poor".

    February 1, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |

    And Mitt will be the nominee, of the one percent, and that's all.

    February 1, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  4. abtime

    The scary thing about this is this man makes this statement with full knowledge of the highly charged environment of haves against have nots secondary to the OWS movement. His lack of concern for those less fortunate than he will drive this country to rioting in the streets even more than already exists.

    February 1, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  5. People IsStupid

    What a non-issue. If you read his original quote, it makes perfect sense. The middle class IS where the focus should be. Not that I think that is Mitt's real focus. Or any politician for that matter.

    February 1, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. Le WI

    I watched CNN. I could not beleive Romney said that. He shows his true colors. God saves us if he becomes President.

    February 1, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. sosume

    The Romney plan: Let the middle class become poor. Then they will all have a safety net and the rich can live happily ever after, with a little help from their friends of course.

    February 1, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    LOL at anyone who thinks Mitt Romney gives a rats ass about middle class Americans.

    February 1, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. Barbara

    Romney's comment today regarding the poor is really making me crazy! I want someone to point out the fact that the 2010 Census had these facts to report:

    nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

    So, according to Romney 90-95% of people are middle class. What do we classify as middle class these days?
    Barbara Cooke

    February 1, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Lando

    I'm not concerned about the very poor....I am more concerned on how to hide my wealth and not to pay taxes on it.....

    February 1, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. Nick

    Don't worry Mitt; We get it that you don't care for us. No amount of spin will take away that remark.

    February 1, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. Jon in Balto

    How do you know when Romney is lying?
    His lips move.

    February 1, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  13. yeahme

    Liberals, please go away. Move out of America if you hate it so much

    February 1, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  14. RomneyRubio2012

    FACTS!!!: Obama and his interest groups spent $36,990,591 in Florida for the 2008 election. McCain and his interest groups spent $17,133,501 (Less than half the amount of Obama) in Florida for the 2008 election. Obama got 4,282,074 votes. McCain got 4,045,624 votes. Obama spent over TWICE as much as McCain, and visited Florida more than McCain, and he only got 236,450 more votes than McCain. This is exactly why Obama and the liberals are scared out of their minds right now. Obama will NOT be able to spend twice as much as Romney in FL. Obama has to run on his pathetic record this time around. And last but not least, Romney is a far better candidate than McCain was. Romney 2012!

    February 1, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  15. Cindy Ivine

    I really don't understand why he is running for president. Gingrich is for the power, Paul for his ideals but what is Romney running for?

    February 1, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. trashcup

    Somebody please ask Willard (MITT'S real name) on camera – just how much does a gallon of milk cost? How much does a pound of hamburger cost? Just a rough idea would work. Willard has absolutely NO CLUE because he has been living high on the hog for years and years. He doesn't care how much it costs to live because he isn't worried about it. Then he wants the American taxpayer to hire him to run our country? Get real Willard. Ain't gonna happen.

    February 1, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Riptim

    This guy is an idiot. If the american people can`t see that then they deserve what they get. This guy has one god MONEY and to hell with the people of this country.

    February 1, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  18. Scott LeBlanc

    lower taxes and lower regulations doesn't bring jobs back to America. It is a myth! I wished my fellow Republicans would smarten up and look at facts instead of believing half truths but those in the clown car.
    If you think that small government and corporate tax cuts are the way you are going to grow the economy, then Michigan’s unemployment rate should be the lowest in the country. Michigan whom Romney is from has cut more than any state in the nation by far! There are also less government employees than any state in the country and their corporate tax burden dropped the greatest of any state in the country and yet Michigan by all accounts has also suffered tremedous loss in their economy! Jennifer Granholm while a Democrat is a great governor but she couldn't help a lot of business closing shop and moving overseas.
    As bad as Michigan is today, it could have been a lot worst! If Obama has led GM and it's subsidiaries die like many Republicans wanted, the state of Michigan would be even worst off than it is today!!!
    Basically the Republican policies for job creation while sound good on paper and maybe good for rhetorics DOES NOT work in real life America.

    February 1, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. The Real Tom Paine

    Don't be patronising, joAmerican, of course people prefer a job over food stamps, but if people can't get health insurance, what do you think will happen to what little savings they ahve if they need to go to the ER? Your scenario about the small business is a repeat scenario that has been played over and over for 2 decades: what has the GOP done to change that, besides introduce the universal mandate that Newt championed and Mitt put into law in MA? States with solid social safety nets and regressive taxation have fared better than states that don't in this economy, with the exception of MI, a state that Mitt would rather have seen die economically than help. Mitt does not lead, he panders and patronises, and I don't want a Mormon aristocrat telling me he knows what is best for me and my family when he has no personal experience with economic hardship.

    February 1, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |

    Ooops again. President Obama will landslide this goon.

    February 1, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  21. Republican Not Voting for Romney

    Blah, Blah, Blah, out-of-touch. No win in general election for your M.R.

    February 1, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. stephen

    I watched this exchange between Soledad Obrian and Mitt Romney. Mitt said that he was not too concerned about the poor because they already have a safety net around them and if it has holes he would fix those holes. Poor, little ignorant Soledad only heard the first part about"I am not too concerned about the poor" and immediately grilled him about his lack of concern for the poor. He very forceably reminded her about the rest of the sentence. I told my wife that we could expect Soledad Obrian and CNN to spread that little snipet taken quite dishonestly,entirely out of context to be spread to every liberal activist reporter in America and sure enough within hours it is being spread around to every unscrupulous liberal in america.

    February 1, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  23. Jennifer Hixson

    Romney is a liar and I see no difference between him or Obama.... He had time to read his speech before he said it.... Don't try to back peddle now ....

    February 1, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  24. Mark from Louisiana

    He is correct. The lower middle class has to work but because they work don't qualify for the benefits that people who won't work get. The lower middle class struggles to pay rent, while the people who won't work live in a $300,000 HUD condo.
    That's how it's done in New Orleans

    February 1, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  25. Lindsey

    I heard Romney say this last night. It WAS taken out of context. The media are always doing that, picking a few words out of a paragraph that, if said alone, sounds controversial. The fact is, he did NOT say that he "didn't care about the poor" and that was that, but rather, in the context of several other phrases within a paragraph, which sounds perfectly logical, sane, and not mean at all. The poor DO have safety nets to help them (that other Republicans want to take away, but not Romney), and the rich don't need help. The middle class...like most of us here, I would imagine...are the ones that DO need a voice most of all. We are the ones losing our jobs, our homes, our sanity. And we have nearly nothing to fall back on, unlike the very poor.

    February 1, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
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