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. vatoloke

    Whoa!! I'm back because I just saw the video on the Ed Show. Juicy stuff that's not good for Romney if it's in fact authentic. But sounds like the real thing to me.

    September 17, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  2. ohreally

    How not to run a campaign by Mitt Romney

    September 17, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  3. samikep

    Romney is Spot On!!!!

    September 17, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  4. mbiggmiike

    Hey Romney....the mic is on shhhhhhhh!!

    September 17, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |

    This doesn't surprise me. Romney is such a blundering numbskull. He cannot lead a country because he only understands wealthy people and their greed. Save the middle class – keep Romney out of the white house.

    September 17, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  6. SR

    Nice to know that as a peasant, Lord Romney would allow me to continue working my lands.

    September 17, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |

    This doesn't surprise me. Romney is such a blundering numbskull. He cannot lead a country because he only understands wealthy people and their greed. Save the middle class – keep Romney out of the white house.

    September 17, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  8. BobinCO

    I've never taken a food stamp or any other handout from the government. At age 49, I've been working and paying taxes since I was 16.

    To MItt Romney I am invisible; I do not exist. I will vote for President Obama.

    September 17, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  9. Tim Parker

    What he said was absolutely true. . . if you deny it or whine about it or draw negative conclusions from it than it proves how delusional you are.

    September 17, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  10. mk1

    I can not even begin to express my outrage at these statements. Romney has proven himself again to NOT be qualified for the office he seeks. I am retired, a vet who has worked my entire life with NEVER a handout from a government program like welfare and I fully support and endorse President Obama. I also can not begin to understand why seniors seem to back Romney. He is truly one of the scariest men around today and our country is in deep deep trouble should he win. His remarks point out how truly out of touch he is with America and how easily he panders to the right wing southern strategy or ignorance and bias. He is nothing but a pathetic little man.

    September 17, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  11. MilitaryAF

    Wow! Romulney is up there with Dan Quayle, except Quayle had a brain!

    September 17, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  12. Tracy Morgan

    Love it. Now I'm DEFINITELY voting for Romney!

    September 17, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  13. Rob - NYC

    WOW! I am sooooo glad this came out! Thank you for that person to release this info. Romney is FINISHED as a presidential candidate. In fact, he's finished in politics. I hope this video goes viral ALL over the country.

    September 17, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  14. Time for Real Journalism

    The video is available at several different websites. In some incarnations, everything is blurred, but in others you can clearly see Romney's face as he talks to the crowd. The audio is also crystal clear. To say that the video has been "dramatically altered" paints a distorted picture. It's hard to believe this isn't the headline.

    September 17, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  15. reginaldb6

    This should comes to no one as a SHOCK, Romney has said this before not as bad remember the speech after NAACP.

    September 17, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  16. Ryan M.

    I have had thoughts along these lines; that Obama has, in a sense, bought so many voters by making sure his administration provides for them with government services. When reading this, I do think that Romney has missed an important part of thus "47%"- those who live off these services, but resent it to their very core. Those who look for jobs and find none; those who have families in need; those who have simply had one bad break after another.

    I think if Romney wishes to have a chance, he needs to re-assess what he said, and address those who don't live off the government simply because that's what they wish to do.

    September 17, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  17. Lori

    Open mouth – insert foot - yet again. I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy.

    September 17, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  18. Randall Shutt

    Wow... Just wow... Not sure what more to say 🙂

    September 17, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  19. Ronnie

    Romny will drown the GOP with him !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 17, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  20. Suzanne

    The righteous indignation that the Obama campaign demonstrates is laughable since they were caught 4 yrs ago.... bitter clingers? All those people in middle America clinging to their guns and bibles? Half our country pay no taxes and they are all probably voting for Obama.... what is the big deal? Btw, never were those comments by Obama played on any of the MSM channels but this video was out for what a few hours and it is everywhere..... no there is no bias. Right.

    September 17, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  21. george

    Wow, these comments by Romney make me want to vote for his twice. He is 100% correct in everything he is saying.

    September 17, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  22. dlskdjf

    You can't make this stuff up !

    September 17, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |

    Prince Bishop Mitt made Bain Capital in his own image. He set up the business plan and hired and trained people to follow it. While it may be legal to strip a company of its assets with huge management fees etc. knowing that the creditors ranging from workers, venders consultants etc were going to be left holding an empty bag, morally it is theft! The race angle is old hat to Republicans in the post 64 Civil Rights Act era. They welcomed and then became the Dixiecrats. Strom Thurmond and Jessie Helms are smiling.

    September 17, 2012 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  24. Marty, FL

    Immoral judgments from Romney.

    I am no victim, but I am my brothers' keeper.

    Unbelievable comments from Romney and not presidential material.

    September 17, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  25. pedestrian

    That 47% number has been debunked by everyone, even conservative sources like Forbes and the National Review. That was for federal income taxes in a particularly bad year. They still paid payroll taxes, like social security and medicare. Only 14% paid no federal taxes, and even they often pay state and local taxes, sales taxes, etc. Because those taxes are more regressive, many of the people Mitt accuses of paying no taxes are paying a higher rate than he is.

    It's another bald-faced lie, but a smart one. If you are one of the 86% of people who pay federal taxes, you think that half of the country is freeloading off of you. In fact, you should ask why Mitt Romney is only paying 15% (much lower than most middle class families) and why Paul Ryan wants to cut that to less than 1%.

    September 17, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
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