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. FLMom

    Contrary to what Mitt Romney believes - I am a white, Catholic female and I am not depending on type of system to care for me nor have I ever as I have worked full time in social services for over 31 years, pay for my own healthcare, paid to have my child in a hospital of my choice, pay all my bills in a timely manner, live in a good neighborhood, pay for my son's private school with no vouchers, volunteer in my community and church and I am in the 47% who WILL vote for Obama simply because we need to protect some of those who cannot work, feed themselves or put housing over their heads who are mostly CHILDREN who certainly don't need an arrogant jerk like Romney looking out for their future.

    September 17, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Although I dont think this is that bad, i dont think its a very smart thing for him to say. Im a college student and paid 7% of 10K last year. No refund. Im sure most of it is payroll taxes, but i did pay some income taxes last year. 10K is not middle class but it is almost out of the poverty level, which is democratically set mind you. I live quite modestly and also try and enjoy life, but by no means am i living lavishly like people seem to think ppl in "poverty" do. The only government handout i get is $30 a month in food stamps. It helps but i sure cant eat health. Speaking of health, i sure cant afford good healthcare because im not rich enough, despite being a healthy 20 yr old. Too "rich" medicaid. So no its not a lavish lifestyle. Im here to show people that people who get help from the government dont get much and we do still pay taxes, even though it may not be very much income taxes. We do pay A LOT of sales tax and help state governments. Despite this, I dont vote for a party because they will give me handouts, i do it based on who is most sensible on the issues and true to my values (not just emotional but logical). Some people do abuse the system, but that means the systems needs better safeguards not a total dismantling. Its not fun to be on welfare, so maybe individuals who make less than me abuse the system, but i guess this is such a small portion of this population that its not a very big "waste."

    September 17, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  3. fergie

    oh Romney You Sad Cow 😀

    September 17, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  4. John

    Simple question...............

    Should 47% of our country be "written off" as being dependent on the government or should our president be interested in the future of all .....100% ..... of our citizens and guests.......only First Class should be respected as productive?

    September 17, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  5. Sam Obi

    Romney writes off 47% of Americans as unworthy of his concern. And he wants to be the next President !! Whew, I feel dizzy.

    September 17, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  6. Cindy

    Romney has already made it known that he will not represent people who make under $200,000.00 a year. This is middle class to him. If you make under $200,000.00 a year you are a parasite to him.

    September 17, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  7. Joseph Smith

    Romney the 10 faced liar. Most people just do 2 faced lying, but not Mit...

    September 17, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  8. Jackie Treehorn

    Hey Mitt the Mathematician, answer me this: if the unemployment rate is only 8-point-something (I'll give you 9), and you say that 47 percent are dependent on government, how exactly are the extra 38 percent dependent on the government?

    These must be the same mathematical skills you're using in formulating your magic budget, or determining that a quarter million dollars a year is "middle income."

    Sounds to me like you're just stoking that familiar right-wing working man's paranoia that somewhere there's a poor black man with a hand in their pocket, to keep them from thinking about the rich white men who are wringing every penny out of them.

    September 17, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  9. Ellis

    There is a certain amount of individuals who will only vote for Obama because they are black. Otherwise they never EVER vote. And it is true that a certain amount of individuals are dependent upon the government since either they are too stupid to be able to work or just too ignorant and lazy which the government rewards both of these behaviors. What everyone fails to realize is that even though slavery was abolished and the blacks were given civil rights the government has taken over the roll as slave owner. Instead of owning slaves and raising cotton and then having the slaves try and run away the government is able to keep all these individuals in line by giving them a monthly handout and instead of them trying to escape and have a prosperous life they sit in government run slums wasting the opportunites that God has bestowed upon them.

    September 17, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  10. lynn

    romney pandering to the dark dank cobweb filled part of the gop .

    September 17, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  11. Kyle

    Ummm...What's controversial about this? He is only echoing what everyone has basically said. It's hilarious how the liberal media keeps saying, "This could be potentially damaging to Romney." So every other day they find something "potentially damaging" yet Romney is still going strong. If all these events were damaging to him, then why does the media keep trying to destroy him? If the DNC ended the game for Romney, then why are liberals still looking for ways to try to hurt Romney. Liberal logic needs to be explained. Actually, that was an oxymoron.

    September 17, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  12. Josh from Austin

    After all this talk from xenophobes and racists about Obama being a Manchurian candidate, I'm starting to believe that it is Romney who's actually the Manchurian candidate. For the Democratic party!

    September 17, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  13. waikikijohn

    Oh, Mr. Romney's true feeling are filtering out to the general public. The comments he thought only his elite buddies and donors would hear. He is Latino once he changes his name to Juan Percent

    September 17, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  14. Guest 1

    Go Mitt !!!! In order to fix this country, the first step is having a President with the balls to say what needs to be said !!!!!!!!!

    September 17, 2012 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  15. SeilnoigileR

    The republican song line-up:
    Nine Inch Nails – "Head Like a Hole"
    Stereolab – "Ping Pong"
    Tennesee Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons
    Describes them perfectly. Look up the lyrics if you don't know 'em 😉

    September 17, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  16. T'sah From Virginia

    ►"...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.◄

    Okay Paul Lyan – you are wasting your time because the statement you are spewing against President Obama is OLD NEWS and in case you didn't know, President Obama still got elected and is now our president!!! Mitt Romney's statement happened after he clinched the nomination – ah, several weeks ago????

    By the way Romney, that 47 percent you speak about are seniors citizens on medicare/medicaid, working class who don't make enough to make ends meet, the poor, students who depend on grants to attend school – All of these Americans are people too – not corporations – but people and they VOTE!!!


    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!!

    September 17, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  17. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Insulting, YES. Romney has just lumped our military families whose spouses need assistance while their love ones serve, senior citizens who have paid into taxes and now are on social security/medicare, babies/children whose parents need assistance to feed them, those who are mentally or physically disabled and can't provide for themselves, the list could go on. Romney is clearly unfit to be the leader of all the people in this United States of America. They say he's out of touch, I say he has no soul and personally I would never have anything to do with him no matter how much money he has.

    September 17, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  18. John

    I'm not on food stamps or welfare, I don't collect Social Security or count on Medicare, and I've paid my taxes for fifty years now. But I'm still voting for Obama. I guess I'm the only one who's not a part of Romney's 47% of lazy freeloaders. I wonder, though, if Romney wins the Presidency if he will condescend to represent this lower 47% of the American public he so disdains?

    September 17, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. Shannon

    So Mr Mittens thinks 47% of hard working Americans who supported President Obama are free loaders, that we don't pay enough taxes, that we see ourselves as victims. Well Mitt, my husband and I will both be up at 4:30 tomorrow morning to put in our ten hour days as an accountant and a machinist. We probably paid more taxes last year than you do, and I would compare our taxes to yours in other years, but you refuse to let us see your returns, so I can only guess that you didn't pay any. Red States take more tax dollars than Blue States, so are you also calling your base free loaders, are you calling seniors on medicade free loaders, how about our soldiers taking benefits, are they free loades. What a disgusting man, he truly showed how little he cares about average Americans. He actually said this week that the middle class were people who made 200,000 to 250,000 a year. Really baggers this is the guy you support

    September 17, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. anonoymous

    Well we've been asking for the real Romney and we got em...What an idiot ask Princess Kate about hidden cameras she'll tell you. Now america if you still have doubt you're an idiot too! OBAMA 2012

    September 17, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  21. mike

    Wow.......Romney should just drop out now...

    September 17, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  22. Noah Buildaboat

    This isn't the ONLY secret video recording of Romney. Go to YouTube and search for "The Mormon Temple: OFFICIAL TRAILER" and be prepared to have your freakin' mind blown.

    September 17, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  23. Britishcitizen

    How is this man even a candidate for your president? Perhaps this will be the final nail for the Romney campaign.

    September 17, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  24. remmet

    Unbelievable. The more we learn about Romney, the worse he gets. If he expressed these thoughts to a group of wealthy supporters, one can only imagine what's in his heart and mind when no one else is in the room.

    September 17, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  25. ShawnDH

    This whole video is sickening! Mitt Romney is a disgusting human being.

    By the way...I know a lot of people, we all work hard, have jobs and pay taxes and we're ALL voting for OBAMA. Romney will raise our taxes so millionaires can get MORE TAX CUTS that have exploded the debt and bankrputed the nation...and "created" minus millions of jobs.

    Mittens is awful.

    September 17, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
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