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. Romneycare

    Romney – "I don't care, and it shows."

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  2. nvrsmmr

    Didn't we already know he believed all those things?

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  3. Pat

    The video was altered., but retains the audio. Horse crop. Actually, most of what he said is the truth.

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  4. carrie

    Romney tells every group something different , lies with such boldness , I do not know how he can call himself Morman .
    I will vote for the best candidate for President , with is Pres Obama. Mitt is on every side of every social issue , and is just not suitable for the job. I have never been on welfare, food stamps and not any kind of gov assistence. I vote for the candidate that I think can benefit the country the best and also has compassion for the least among us.

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  5. Tyronne Wilson

    And ?? Is this supposed to end him ? This is the big scoop ? What he said was accurate. You can tell the left is very nervous. Every other day there's some ' we have the story that will end Romney ' attempt. It's desperate and sad.

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  6. Thinker

    Is anyone surprised?

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  7. David from Georgia

    Wow! Really Mitt? Tell us how you really feel about us.

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

    Boy, this is classic Romney....what arrogance.....I guess I am in that 47 %..... but the only government help we have taken is after my mom ran though all of her hard earned savings with advanced alzheimer's we had to apply for medicaid for her....None of us made enough, even if pooling our money to pay the 6000 a month nursing home costs. Probably should have kept her home according to this arrogant man....but she was so violent we were afraid she would harm our children. He has no idea of real life....

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  9. Bernard Webb

    Romney has done everything possible to lose this election, With this, I think he may have finally succeeded.

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  10. Darryl

    I'm sure the Republicans will defend Romney on this video. I've said it from the beggining, Mr. & Mrs. Romney want to be POTUS & !st Lady because they feel it's THEIR TURN and they DESERVE it. They even said exactly that on Good Morning America. these people are really unbelieveable and so very self-consumed it's sad they can't relate to the average person.

    September 17, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  11. Matthew Jones

    There's no dancing around this one. Before we just assumed that the GOP didn't care about the poor, now we have confirmation. Not very Christian, don't ya think?

    September 17, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  12. Havoc7

    47% of Americans cant be convinced to take responsibility for their lives? Really? That 47% includes retirees, social security recipients, military disability recipients, and others that already paid into the system and it is the system that is not taxing them. Dont blame all of them. Sure there are some bums out there but now where near 47%. What a tool you are Mitt.

    September 17, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  13. Raymond

    Granted, Obama is no saint. But then again Romney sure sounds like the Devil.

    September 17, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  14. John

    GOP............................................Greedy On Parade........................he is parading his actual opinions, about time!!!!

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

    Come Romney you are just way too rich and in the need to show it !! RAFALCA !!!

    September 17, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  16. bill

    If this is true, and it appears to be, I will leave the Republican party because it has lost it's way due the take over of the
    right wing radicals.

    September 17, 2012 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  17. robsea69

    Correct me if I am wrong but a president of the United States should be a president to all citizens. I would prefer that my president possess a generous amount of compassion.

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

    This is hilarious . . .so you just degraded retired people on social security or medicare? Of course he wanted to "dog whistle" minorities on welfare or housing. What makes this funny is that he openly said he doesn't care about a large portion of the country.

    The other part that is funny is imagine Jesus saying this? The religious right talk about christian values, yet Jesus said more than once that you take care of the least among you.

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

    Romney is toast. If he hasn't learned by now that anything can be recorded anywhere, anytime, he should throw in the towel and go cheer Ryan on at his next sub-3 minute marathon.

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

    Some people can't handle the TRUTH. Almost half of the US population believes the US Government owes them. Lets see, who was it that said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." I rather be a partner with a very sucessful person vs. someone always feeling somebody owes them something.

    September 17, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  21. Lynda/Minnesota

    I am reminded of my grandmother who raised 4 children during the depression and my father who quit school at age 16 to help her support his siblings. Both worked until their retirement. Both received Social Security and Medicare benefits until their death. My grandmother never had an income greater than her need ... and was one of "those people" whose tax rates Mitt Romney speaks of - rates well within her very limited income. Neither my grandmother or my father would ever have been considered "moochers" to anyone but Mitt Romney and his ilk of "new" Republicans. Certainly not to anyone within our family or circle of friends. I could go on and on. She was a FDR Democrat, he a Republican. Both were proud voters, and proud Americans. We all have stories similar to mine. During the good times and the bad times we Americans from both party's generally stick together. Not so with Mitt Romney. He rips us apart with his disdain for one half of America's population ... Republicans and Democrats alike. This man disgusts me with his pompous talk and condescending elitism. Suffice it to say, Mitt Romney has of his own free will justified my vote for President Obama.

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

    My wife and i are white iwork me day a week be cause i got sick thank god for social security after we pay the bills we can hardley eat i hold off my medicine so we can eat read my lips romney

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

    Shame on Romney to call us dependent, victims who do not pay any taxes. What we are, are people who are willing to make sure that the truly downtrodden do not wait some private charities hand out but help from our government which treats all our citizens equally. Our family members and my self are Obama supporters, all of us make decent income and pay taxes. I even have a daughter who will calculate tax from out of state purchase to pay California user fees. Watch out for buzz words: Broadening the tax base = Tax the middle call and poor more. Help the job creators = Give the extremely rich tax breaks and Caymen island shelters and less regulations. Deal with the deficit = Cut what is provided to the poor and middle class. Think about it before you vote.

    September 17, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. I Agree

    Well I agree with everything he said. I would have no problem if he would say it publicly.. Welfare is becoming an addiction and I am tired of paying for the welfare addicts in this country..

    September 17, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  25. WF

    That's what Santorum was saying: "He's the worst one to run against the president!" ... (Worst One)

    September 17, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
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