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. Anonymous

    Your done Mitt!!! Give up!!!

    September 17, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  2. DC Insider

    I would say the truth is finally coming out, but we already knew Romney was a rich, arrogant, fool. So, instead I will say the truth is coming into the light. He is not the average American, he cannot relate to the average American, he thinks he is better than the Average American. He will not win in November, that is for sure.

    September 17, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  3. Waking Universe

    It's bad enough that the GOP candidate for president is caught on camera saying he believes that 47 percent of the country he doesn't worry about, and that they see themselves only as dependent victims who don't take responsibility for themselves because they don't pay enough in taxes, yet to me what truly speaks volumes about Mr. Romney's mindset, values and complete separation from reality is the story he tells in the video about the Chinese factory workers. He is so completely naive, in a totally different reality when it comes to the meaning of slave labor.

    No Mr. Romney, the barbed wire and guard towers were not only designed to keep eager workers out, they were to keep people in as well, and you were simply too disconnected from reality to realize that what you were told was a clever story to satisfy the corporate masters.

    Mr. Romney and the GOP he represents are a primary danger to this country and this Earth. They preach the politics of separation and segregation. They probably believe their rhetoric, yet they are too naive to see the long range outcomes of that rhetoric, again and again.

    The question will be asked this November whether working class middle Americans will be so naive to buy into the GOP rhetoric again, or whether they will see beyond the GOP's short sided, fear based propaganda and see a better way forward by giving President Obama another four years to right the ship that the GOP so badly capsized in the previous decade.

    September 17, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  4. Steve Bohleber

    Absolutely reprehensible! And this man wants to be our President! He has written off 1/2 of our population as unworthy.

    September 17, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  5. LiberaLIowan

    Is it possible for mittwit to open his mouth without sticking his foot in it? As if he wasn't in enough trouble already in this election. He is toast.

    September 17, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  6. texmexdeux

    I don't pay taxes?!?! Since when? Tell you what, Mitt, I'll release my tax returns to show you I pay taxes. Even if you won't.

    September 17, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  7. Jim

    Romney sets himself on fire again.

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

    Mitt just keeps making it easier and easier.

    September 17, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  9. mongo

    He's got the vote of white angry males who are 65yrs. or older. So he could care less as long as the contributions keep coming in. I think his heart really isn't in this campain. His wife probably put him up to this just to show up their friends who don't have elevators for there cars.

    September 17, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  10. AmadoC

    LOL... I can picture myself if because I was from parents on welfare giving a bite to Romney's foot. The best I can do is not raise my children on welfare by following my parents example to work very hard for the good things you enjoy. So who can blame these 47% if they close their minds and vote for Obama? Hey, well that will only be 4 more years either way... and the court will rule that he cannot force us to be on welfare, but only perhaps in a totally unrelated way like by paying them with taxes. LMAO!
    Anyways, as a Mexican I recommend Romney uses the choice of his grandparents to have their children in Mexico for his campaign to gain votes especially from those who were first in coming to the USA for the purpose of work and should limit his talk to only such examples... which I'm sure Republicans have already done lawfully and although seems very strict for some it isn't and seems fair as they really never plan on being dependent on the USA government.
    Now about having a plant in China... one way or another it has to be done... whoever can say so plus have more jobs available in the USA at the same time has propelled us across the international scene as champions of worldwide commerce and sounds especially triumphant as whole entire nations want to now have a capitalist society because the world demands you.

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

    So we all knew was the true Mitt Romney from day 1.....

    September 17, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  12. Mike in Texas


    I've long believed that Romney supporters were really just anti-Obama voters.

    Who can really support this guy? Do you hate Obama so much that you'd vote for this guy?

    September 17, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  13. Alex knapp

    I'm a Obama supporter who has since I was 15, starting with the lowest of low, and eventually working my way into a good paying job in the IT field. Just because I believe that Americans shouldn't have to worry about an illness destroying all of their life's work or that the poor shouldn't be left to starve on the streets doesn't mean I think I'm a victim, or I am dependent or want others dependent on the government. I simply want a government to work for the people, not for the corporations that would drain our resources, pollute our environments, and actively campaign against the self interests of the citizenry of the country they operate in.

    Mitt Romney tars huge swaths of the population with his broad statements about who Obama voters are. Come November, he is gonna find out just how many people he covered in his ignorant and utterly baseless characterization of the American electoral landscape.

    September 17, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  14. Black For Obama

    Oh He's Done. I don't care what he say most Americans can't find a job some people use to pay taxes and they can't help it SMH

    September 17, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  15. Midwest Born and Raised

    This is nothing new. We already knew Romney and some GOPers feel this way. What he said is not all the way accurate. Of the 46.4% who do not pay federal income tax, many of them pay payroll taxes. According to a Tax Policy Center analysis (cited, the rest of the 46.4% who pay neither are either elderly or make less than $20,000 a year and also pay state and local taxes. I would have more respect for Romney if he were more truthful but he stretches and omits facts to make himself look good. And even then, he doesn't look so good. I am not saying President Obama and other politicians are not guilty of it at times but Romney does it far more and with condescension.

    Please wake up people and vote for your own self interests. Not those force fed by people with bad intentions.

    September 17, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  16. Lauri

    Dear Mr. Romney....I'm part of the 47% who will vote for President Obama. I own 2 homes, I pay for my own insurance, I am a small business owner. I have never been on welfare or food stamps. I am a college graduate. I care for my parents. Who are you calling dependent?

    September 17, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  17. 4Hours2Vegas

    Out of their own mouths.......

    "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."

    September 17, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  18. Havoc7


    September 17, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  19. Hillcrester

    Romney is a clueless ass. Nothing more need be said. Nothing.

    September 17, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  20. stella

    ALL MAJOR NEWS MEDIA had this on their NIGHTLY NEWS and my question to you is WHY WAS THIS CONTROVERSIAL? Isn't that the TRUTH, the TRUTH hurts aint it.? I see this as an HONEST assessment of what this country has become. The bottom line is those that are depending on the govt are flocking to the party that are willing to do the hand out instead of putting forward policies to get these people off their behinds and into a what they call JOB.

    September 17, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  21. Paul

    Hahahah – perfect. This clown just keeps getting better. GOP – Palin, McCain, Santorum, Bachmann, Romney, just must be brimming with pride.

    September 17, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  22. John

    "the 47% don't take personal responsibility for their lives, I can't worry about them" I guess he doesn't think that some of them

    ....might have worked all of their lives and still be struggling
    ....might only be able to get a part time job and therefore need some assistance, at least temporarily
    ....might have paid into FICA most of their lives and believe they DESERVE some payback

    Is it fair to "write-off" this entire 47%?

    September 17, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  23. teacheng

    Wow. We all suspect this is what the multimillionaires say and think, but to have candidate for President say it out loud. He really does think he's better than everyone else. This is the day he lost the election.

    September 17, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  24. Mike in Texas

    Romney really stepped into it.

    For one not everyone who pays zero federal income taxes are not voting for Obama. Many of them are Republicans, so he basically called Republicans freeloaders too.

    So he ripped on seniors on benefits, veterans on benefits, lower income people who work hard and want to do better.

    If I am anyone of these voters I could not in my right mind vote for this guy.

    By the way......I am a Democrat who pays federal income taxes and does not receive government aid.

    September 17, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  25. E.Longstreet

    I agree with Mitt.

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
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