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. robbieD

    Romney is the lowest of the low. He is the most unpatriotic person to ever run for president and he proves it every day. He hates America.

    September 17, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  2. jw456

    If Romney really believes that 47% of Americans sit back and want to government to provide their every want, then no wonder he is so phony and awkward around the average citizen. All I know is that I pay exactly what I owe in taxes to the government–no Cayman Island/Swiss tax dodges. Maybe Romney should look in the mirror to see who the real freeloader is.

    September 17, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    this is what I was talking about him opening his mouth, hope he keeps it up

    September 17, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  4. Angry Lib

    Another example of how disconnected Romney is from reality!

    September 17, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  5. Tomtomtom

    The Republican and Democrat just interviewed by A. Cooper were great. Look at it on line if you missed it. The Republicans are not denying what Romney said or what was implied. He obviously thinks that most of those 47% should be paying Fed income tax. Many are retirees living off SS or are low income wage earners already paying around15% in total taxes, (SS, sales, property), in other words a higner % than Romney himself.

    September 17, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |

    So what this butthole is basically saying is that "if you're NOT a billionaire like me, then you're just a lazy bum". This jerk is not fit to lead America.

    September 17, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  7. Jen

    No surprise here. Can you say spoilt rich kid who will never have any concept of really what hard working people are about. Really makes me respect John MCain more. he may have been rich but at least he was able to try to understand little people like us. Wish November was today, cant wait for this wanabee President and his wannabee first lady sail off into the sunset with their boat and let the ADULTS do the job.

    September 17, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  8. pjoe

    Probably 80% (at least) of Obama supporters are dependent on the government. There is no chance of convincing them with reason and logic. Why is this a story?

    September 17, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  9. jean2009

    Hey did eveyone see the teleprompter?

    September 17, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  10. vic , nashville ,tn

    GOP change candidate

    September 17, 2012 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  11. Mantha

    Why am I not surprised? A closed door candid moment showing us what Mitt really thinks about roughly 50% of the country. Say goodbye to the Whitehouse Mitt.

    September 17, 2012 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  12. gypsydaveywithablowtorch

    Funny how the candidates real feelings come out when they think their comments are private. Obama was criticized for his clinging to guns and religion comment, but what he said was completely true-I live in a conservative rural area and have watched people stock up on guns and heard people's comments. I own a small business and work at it on average 50 to 60 hours a week. Yes, when I retire I expect to collect Social Security, and yes, I am thankful for the help I've gotten sending my kids to college. Sorry Mr. Romney, I don't consider myself a victim, I'm not always looking for handouts and, yes, I am proudly voting for President Obama.

    September 17, 2012 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  13. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    Romney's words do not surprise me, but I find them terribly insulting. How there he? He is not fit to be president according to many, many people. To me, he is not fit to be a simple, decent human being. He is a traitor to the country and to its people. Now I understand why John McCain thought that Palin was a better choice for VP than Romney. Incredibly, she was.

    September 17, 2012 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  14. tony marchese

    Real patriot, looks for ways to avoid paying taxes, etc! Also knows how to keep 5 military age sons out of the war zone!! Wants to shield the filthy rich class doing the same or should we say, "birds of a feather flock together." Looks like THEIR 15 minutes of shameless glory is up!!! What do U think?!

    September 17, 2012 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  15. cynthia

    Good luck america with your president Romney. You reap what you sow

    September 17, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  16. gaga

    This is no where to be found on Fox News.

    September 17, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  17. nate jax fl

    Areyou suprised I am not.

    September 17, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  18. Travis

    It's ironic that a guy who claims that 47% of Americans are dependent on the government and don't pay taxes, won't share his own tax records. Is he speaking from experience?

    September 17, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  19. Jack

    Romney/Ryan just lost my vote, and I expect more will follow.

    September 17, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  20. 111Dave111

    "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."

    How could anyone vote for Romney?

    September 17, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  21. Lee

    So, anyone who voted for Obama just doesn't work? This guy is a joke. How anyone, nevermind just Latinos, African-Americans, Women, the highly educated, the poor, those with medical bills, those with student loans, those with empathy and forward vision, and people who have directly benefitted from the stimulus or the Affordable Care Act, can vote for Willard Mitt Romney, is beyond me. Really? This guy?

    September 17, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  22. wes

    And poof.....just like that Romney's hope of buying the Presidency goes up in smoke.

    September 17, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Here you go, this is the real romney, the guy that doesn't care about half of americans.

    September 17, 2012 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  24. NK

    Coming from the man who used government subsidies to bailout his company. Oh the irony.

    September 17, 2012 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  25. JanetMermaid

    Hard working middle class Americans who have been in denial about the REAL Mitt Romney can no longer turn their heads. Here is Romney's arrogance and disdain in his own words, said behind "gold-plated" doors where he assumed he could speak how he honestly feels, and only his millionaire buddies would hear. The truth has finally come out.

    September 17, 2012 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
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