September 17th, 2012
10:50 PM ET
10 years ago

Controversial private fund-raiser video shows candid Romney

On Tuesday, Mother Jones released the full tape of Romney's fund-raising, totally nearly 50 minutes. Watch the tape here.

(CNN) - Mitt Romney on Monday said his controversial statements caught on tape were "off the cuff" and "not elegantly stated," but he defended the main message of his remarks.

Romney took three questions in a brief press conference with pool reporters late Monday night in California, scheduled at the last minute in response to the release of secretly recorded video of the candidate speaking at a private fund-raiser in May.

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The video quickly caught fire as potentially damaging material to the Republican presidential nominee.

In the footage, taped with a hidden camera, Romney argued nearly half of Americans will vote for President Barack Obama because they rely on government support, made apparent jokes about wishing he had Latino heritage, and talks about a Chinese factory his former firm purchased.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in one clip. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates that for tax year 2011, 46% of households will end up owing nothing in federal income taxes. But if payroll taxes are counted, the number of non-payer households drops precipitously - to an estimated 18% in 2011.

Adding to his argument about entitlement, Romney said his "job is not to worry about those people."

"I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," he added. "What I have to do is convince the 5 percent to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful."

The videos were posted Monday afternoon on the left-leaning news websites The Huffington Post and Mother Jones. The person responsible for the footage said he or she wishes to remain anonymous for "professional reasons and to avoid a lawsuit," according to the Huffington Post. Furthermore, the video was altered dramatically - but retains the audio from the event - to mask the location and date of the fund-raiser with high-dollar donors.

Appearing on MSNBC late Monday night, the author of the Mother Jones article, David Corn, said the event took place May 17 in Boca Raton, Florida, at the home of Sun Capital executive Marc Leder.

Romney, in his press conference Monday night, said he could have stated his original comments "more clearly" but said he was trying to point out the differences between the two campaigns.

"We have a very different approach - the president and I - between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams," Romney said.

As for why he spoke more candidly with the group of donors, Romney said he was addressing some concerns at the fund-raiser.

"At a fundraiser you have people say, 'Governor how are you going to win this?' And so I respond 'Well, the president has his group, I have my group. I want to keep my team strong and motivated and I want to get those people in the middle.' That's something which fund-raising people who are parting with their monies are very interested in," Romney said.

He also called on the unidentified individual to release the entire video, rather than "snippets."

Shortly after reports began to surface about the video, campaign spokesman Rick Gorka said the campaign will allow pool reporters to film some fund-raisers beginning Tuesday. Previously, reporters were allowed into some of the events but were not permitted to use cameras. Events in private residences will still be closed to press.

When the campaign released a statement in response to the issue later Monday, it did not directly mention the videos.

"Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney's plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs," Gail Gitcho, Romney's communications director, said in the statement.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus defended Romney on Monday, saying the nominee was simply describing the "monstrosity" of government.
"The point of all of this is that the size of government is too big, and if we don't do something about it we're going to really lose the very idea of America," Priebus said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

He added: "I don't have the numbers in front of me but clearly what we do have, very clearly, is a government and a society here in this country that is becoming dependent."
Also at the event, Romney joked he would be more successful in his White House bid if his father were actually Latino, rather than having been born in Mexico to missionary parents from the United States.

"My dad, as you probably, know was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico ... and, uh, had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this," Romney said. "But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico.... I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

The tape came the same day as Romney addressed the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles as he continues to court Latino voters, which have largely signaled they would fall in Obama's column in November. According to a recent Gallup poll, Obama leads Romney among Latino registered voters 64%-27%.

Obama's campaign quickly seized on the reports Monday, calling Romney's comments "shocking."

"It's shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as 'victims,' entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take 'personal responsibility' for their lives. It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation," said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in a statement.

In another part of the video, Romney says he was visiting a Chinese factory during his tenure as chief executive of Bain Capital, a private equity firm.

"When I was back in my private equity days, we went to China to buy a factory there," Romney is heard saying. "It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married."

The GOP nominee goes on to detail the conditions he saw, including workers squeezed into dormitory-style housing, and a fence topped by barbed wire circling the factory.

Romney says when he asked the factory's bosses about the fence, they told him it was meant to keep people out, rather than in, as people were clamoring to come and work at the plant, which Romney said was manufacturing small appliances.

Romney concludes his story by recalling words from a fellow employee of Bain.
"The Bain partner I was with turned to me and said, you know, 95 percent of life is settled if you are born in America," Romney is heard saying on the tape.

A source familiar with Bain's investment history says the firm itself did not buy the factory referred in the video, but could not say whether the factory was owned by a company in which Bain later invested. The Boston Globe reported in 1998 that a Bain subsidiary, Brookside Capital Partners Fund, had invested in a Global Tech, a company with factories in China.

Obama's re-election campaign cited the video Monday while touting the president's newly filed trade complaint against China, which alleges China has illegally subsidized automotive exports and undercut American suppliers.

Romney, in a statement, called the trade complaint "too little, too late," asserting the president's "credibility on this issue has long since vanished."

Obama, himself, was caught in a secret camera moment in 2008, when he was recorded at a private fund-raiser saying that some voters "cling to their guns and religion." At the time, Republicans quickly pounced on the comment and now Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, uses the quote against the president on the campaign trail.

"This Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged and proud to say so," Ryan said Monday at a campaign event in Iowa. "That's just weird. Who says things like that? That's just strange."

- CNN's Ashley Killough, Jim Acosta, Rachel Streitfeld, Kevin Liptak, and Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Fundraising • Mitt Romney
soundoff (456 Responses)
  1. kazport

    Its true. Exactly what he said is the truth. Obama wants people to be dependent on the Government. It is not that complicated.

    September 17, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  2. tigerakabj

    Now all Harry Reid needs to do is follow-up on this and finish off Romney with regard to his tax returns. I just called Reid's office today and told them, "Now is the time."

    Early voting starts 2 weeks from now. I want Romey out of the race before then.

    Honestly, I don't even want to see the debates b/c President Obama might as well debate a rocking chair since Romney won't have anything to say that demonstrates he's fit to lead.

    September 17, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  3. FactCheck

    Wow, just wow.

    September 17, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. mattinacan

    oh man i didn't think things could get worse for Romney, now this. He is going to lose PA and OH, he's not getting to 270, this thing is over, pack it up Mittens.

    September 17, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  5. joe

    Why am i not shocked!!! This guy does not care about the USA or Americans .all he cares about is gettign power!!!!!!!! Guess what Mitt, i support the president and i do very well and I have never received govt handouts and never will.

    September 17, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  6. Larry

    Let's see how Team Romneybot spins some lies & excuses out of this one! And as for Ryan's comment about Obama saying that some voters "cling to their guns and religion" .....I'm with Obama on that one! Seems the states with the highest level of that mentality are the Red ones with the highest unemployment. Go figure.

    September 17, 2012 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  7. AZ resident

    wow!! Mitt Romney should just get his concession speech ready, this guy has no idea what he is doing!!

    September 17, 2012 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  8. Maxx

    Who knows the true Mitt? Man, he gets creepier by the day.

    September 17, 2012 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  9. BBear

    Now we know what is truly in the heart of Mr. Romney. Sadly, his own words confirm what many of us have expected.

    September 17, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  10. Ouch

    Stick a fork in him,. he's toast.

    September 17, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  11. Thomas

    If Romney didn't have so much money , I'd feel sorry for him.

    He's very out of touch with the rest of the world.

    He has my empathy .

    September 17, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. Gurgyl

    GOP idiots do all kind of nasty stuff. Drive them to animal pen. Obama12.

    September 17, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  13. Marty, FL

    A disgusting moment of candor and contempt from Romney.

    I, along with many Americans, are not dependent on government and support our president for re-election.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    September 17, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  14. Paul Ernest Show

    America hasn't seen nothing yet about Romney. He is a man of many colors, many words, and none is worthy of trust. He's the risk America cannot take, at this critical moment. John MCcain did better than him, in temperament, discipline and honor.
    He's off the beat, cold, and like most successful businessmen, throat cutting. If he's a great manager, why is his campaign managed worse than a child manages his or her lemonade stand?

    September 17, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    Did I not say in past posts that this exact type of this Chinese what the GOP/Teatrolls envision for America? They don't want you free and receiving paychecks to do with as you no...that's not YOUR money, even if you were paid it in exchange for labor. Hell no. GOP utopia = fenced corporate campuses where all employees live and work and you receiving just enough to buy your food and living expenses and the "beneficent" corporate parents taking care of you by providing just enough for your needs...deciding whether you can reproduce or whether it would burden the corporation too much for you to have more than one child....never letting you get ahead, just sticking you in place....put in your place where you belong...subservient and beholden to the employer...until you've outlived your useful labor life and they can cut you off from health care and let you die to minimize expenses on the bottom line.

    September 17, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  16. Sharon

    Mitt, Mitt, Mitt – you have strayed so far from your upbringing. I admired George Romney – was not old enough to vote for him. When he came out against Viet Nam (I had a brother fighting there when he made his statement) he showed what a principled man he was. Too bad this acorn fell so far from that tree. I hope people realize Mitt is just a token figurehead and gd only knows who will made the decisions. I am an Obama supporter – disappointed in what was not accomplished but with his reelection, the opposition had better be ready to compromise as Barack will be given a mandate. As a working, family person, I am doing slightly better than in 2008 but the country is doing much better, a positive job report each month, the market climbing and home values coming up.
    Obama/Biden 2012

    September 17, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  17. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Any American Voter that doesn't realize that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have sold their souls to these wealthy campaign donors, hasn't been paying attention. These two sold out any moral principles they may have had, years ago.

    September 17, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  18. slason

    Put a fork in Romney...he's done. This guy oozes greasy used car salesman. His words prove it, over and over. You can't trust such a reed blowing in the political winds. He has no foundation other than to represent the 1%.

    September 17, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  19. Drew

    So, Romney told it like it is.

    What's the problem with the video again?

    September 17, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  20. Bobloblaw

    Romney is right. The moochers are close to outnumbering the producers.

    September 17, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  21. Marlee

    I can not believe that a canidate for the president of the United States would say and believe those things that Mr Romney said!!! You are wrong about what you are saying I am not a Victim I do not think it is the responsibility of the government to take care of all of my needs. Why don't you say the same things about the oil companies that recieve money from the government and the farmers and all the other companies that get help from the goverment, where is their personal responsibility? I wonder if you had a friend or family member that needed help you would say the same thing. Get off of your soap box and start looking at the real picture.Most people that get help from the goverment really need it and they hate the fact that they have to have a handout.

    September 17, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  22. The Elephant in the Room

    He can not be President. He is untrustworthy. He has secretive plans to establish policy in back rooms out of the public eye or scrutiny. We see this evidenced in his refusal torelease his tax returns and off shore bank accounts. Romney, thinks he is smarter, better, superior than everyone else. The man was born on 3rd base but would SWEAR that he hit a triple.

    When Romney enumerates the "47% of the public", he is counting WHITE PEOPLE along with women, latinos, asians, blacks, gays, etc. This revealing statement should be enough to show those white folks in western PA, Ohio, Missouri, wVA, Indiana, Illinois, Tennesee, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan, that the REPUBLICAN party has ZERO respect for them. Mr. "Joe-the-Plumber, the GOP will NEVER accept you, You`d be a fool to vote for him.

    September 17, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  23. Dan

    He just wrote off almost half of the American public and those crazy right wing nut jobs will still vote for him. It is a wonder why our political system is so fractured when this is the best the opposition can put up. Romyan and their tea baggers are trying everything they can to bring down the country. If they do they will most certainly blame it on the dems, gays, liberals, atheists, poor, Jews, and anyone not white and rich. Does that sound like anything that's happened before? It will be a cristian Taliban like society! I hope you all have your magical underwear on.

    September 17, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  24. Jim

    What a joke...this guy is more fake than a $3 dollar bill....i hope this is the nail in the coffin for his campaign.

    September 17, 2012 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  25. Michael Meeder

    It's sad when people will only say what they truly feel when they think nobody else is watching.

    September 17, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
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