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. Eddie B

    He said these people do not care about their lives and he is not for talking to them. 47% of the people?!?!!

    September 17, 2012 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  2. Gary

    And Romney puts the final touches on handing the election to Obama. Thanks Mitt!

    September 17, 2012 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  3. Name herman clements

    Its the real deal

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  4. jess sayin

    Rmoney's true colors showing...he must not be allowed anywhere near the White House. He hates 47% of the people he hopes to lead!

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  5. Bill

    Is it too late for the Republicans to nominate Santorum?

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  6. Dan j

    This reminds me of the whole "clinging to guns and religion." I actually think that if Romney plays his cards right, this can be an advantage. Although 47% of Americans is way too high a number, the people who don't want a welfare country might be less inclined to vote for Obama. BTW, the video sounds more like 4-7%, not 47%

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  7. mjw

    He is not done making a fool of himself ...there will be more....because everybody knows this man has no core conviction but self promotion. He does not care what he says, he is just pandering to anyone to get that 51%. He has already , so let him continue with those negative advertisment that no one is watching, but we can expect more because he is getting desparate. I voted for President Obama and will vote for him and have never had a hand out from government. I would never vote for Romney /Ryan if my life depends on it.

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  8. yourstruli

    If these comments are authentic, I find them outrageous. I have affluent friends supporting Obama. And I have some of the not so wealthy ones vouching for Romney. Traditionally, middle class has voted for Democrats, but with Mr. Romney's policy indications, he seems like one of those who will cause trouble for middle and lower class. I personally do not trust him for his flip flopping, that is my only issue with him.

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Can we outsource Romney to China? We don't want or need a person like him in America

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  10. troy

    Oh my god, this is becoming a living nightmare for the republicans. How could this Romney guy fool so many people and win the nomination? He's horrible!

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  11. tcaud

    Guess what, folks? The days of self-reliance NEVER EXISTED. It's logically impossible for a person to rely completely on themselves and get by. Everyone must solicit the community for something.

    September 17, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  12. aavasque

    Rommey will not get help from Latinos even if he were Latino as long as Republicans continue with immigration policies implemented in Alabama, Arizona, etc. Remember that Latinos share many of the Republican's party values. Remeber that Latino voted for Bush. However the distance is due to the new immigration policies that Republicans are promoting. As long as Republican continue suppotring those policies they will not get the latino vote.

    September 17, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  13. Bren

    I don't know what CNN--or anyone else--finds so shocking about this video. There are millions of US citizens who do not pay any taxes, who live off of welfare and foodstamps (and have no goals/ambitions of doing anything else)--why else would they fight all efforts forcing them to attend job training, etc. They do not want jobs, they want to be able to sit on their butts all day and collect welfare/foodstamps. The shocking part is that there are people who did not know/see this!!

    September 17, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  14. Not RIch

    I'm not rich so I guess Romney doesn't want my vote. Good, because I wasn't planning on voting for him anyways. OBAMA 2012!

    September 17, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  15. Paul

    I support Obama and I've never taken assistance or unemployment. See, what I think some people fail to realize is that our economy, corporations, infrastructure and way of life is dependent on gov't spending. If you look at the private sector GDP, the private sector is actually on average with the 60 year baseline of somewhere around 3% growth. Granted, it's still only a few years past 2007, so everything is still wobbly, but the fact is that GDP in the private sector is growing. If you look at the public sector, gov't is greatly reduced. There have been lower increases and many times cuts to payments to recipients and those businesses that provide the services have been scaled back. For instance, you don't really believe hospitals will remain open without Medicaid and Medicare do you? Medicaid alone accounts for a large part of hospital and provider revenues. Without Medicaid, you'd actually see the supply of health care go down and the price go waaaaaay up. It'd cost too much for Providers to stay open without those people coming in.

    September 17, 2012 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |

    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 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  17. Oldskool

    Isn't he adorable.

    September 17, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  18. nobikiniatoll

    Gosh, he's even more loveable when he doesn't think anyone who matters is watching.

    September 17, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  19. JPX

    Disgusting. This is exactly why Romney would never have my vote.

    September 17, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  20. Zallen

    please oh please let it be this vampires silver dagger

    September 17, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  21. Duop Chak

    I thought Romney cares about poor Americans—it is quite a disturbing development, at least, politically.

    September 17, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  22. Jake

    Ryan is proud to be Catholic and proud to be a deer hunter?

    That is just weird. Who says things like that? That's just strange.

    Wow that guy is crazy.

    September 17, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  23. Blinded by the republican lie

    Well now...Let's see who is gona get hung by his gonads for this..I guess he is trying to start a revolt...Bring it on ...Idiot!!!

    September 17, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  24. TK

    well romney the coward despises 47% of the country and he calls himself a christian

    September 17, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  25. Brian from DC

    A Latino voting for Mitt Romney would be like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.

    September 17, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
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