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. hemuda

    Pants down!

    September 17, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  2. JR


    September 17, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  3. Kef14

    Wow...does this guy even want to be president? This seems like complete self sabotage. Maybe he has an evil twin?

    September 17, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  4. AaronT3

    During Vietnam War when America needed Willard (Etch-A-Sketch) Romney this COWARD got four deferments and ran off to France.

    When America needed him to pay his fair share of taxes, he hid his money in offshore accounts.

    When America needed jobs he led the way for outsourcing destroying entire families.

    Now he wants to become President of America and some of you believe all of the above are acceptable character traits you want in the leader of our country.

    In STARK contrast to President Obama whose ENTIRE public service career has consistently worked to improve the quality of life of other less fortunate then himself.

    For me selfless service to mankind is a far better trait than that demonstrated and practiced by Willard (Etch-A-Sketch) Romney!!!

    September 17, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Isn't this a piece made for Hamby . . .

    September 17, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  6. 22

    Romney revealed in his own words.No surprise there,he's in it for the millionaires and billionaires but hearing him throw the rest of us under the bus just hurts.He just does not care!Mr Romney,we don't see ourselves as victims,we're the hard working middle class and we're tired of you looking down your nose at us.We want a president who cares for ALL Americans! Obama/Biden 2012!

    September 17, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  7. Sal

    I guess it is kind of like Obama saying that Republicans cling to guns and religion. While Romney's number was a little high, his point is valid.

    September 17, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. nmmell08

    Candid well as incrediablely insensitive, totally dismissive, and alienating in those just makes me sick

    September 17, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  9. Albert Yester

    Can you say "Yellow Jourlnalism"

    September 17, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  10. Francisco

    At least he is aware that he is losing. Why brother finishing this up Romney? Throw in the Towel.

    September 17, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  11. Daveydog

    Let me guess? This is another one of those Liberal mainstream media gotcha moments? This guy has a lot of nerve.

    September 17, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  12. Billy

    If those truly are Mitt's words, it shows what he thinks of the poor and the working poor.

    September 17, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  13. Jim

    Open mouth. Insert foot.

    September 17, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  14. romney's cousin

    It would also be helpful if Romney were to start paying taxes.

    September 17, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  15. Marie MD

    The real twit please stand up!!! Wow!!!
    Let me tell you one thing moron. Our families are descendants of Germans, British (yes, they don't like you either), Scots and Canadians. We have NEVER received government money . We don't consider people who are in need and need government help any lesser than us (but you are below slime). My husband is a republican who voted for Obama in 2008 and will vote for him again.
    As far as your lying altarboy he better be saying his rosary twice a day every day and taking communion every day because he is going to go straight to he11 without passing purgatory.
    You keep clinging to your religion and your guns just make sure you don't go hunting with darth vader!

    September 17, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  16. Jeff Schoonover

    Why isn't this story on the front page of every news site in the country?

    September 17, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  17. cali girl

    Another so called joke not so funny. But again, Robmey was only talking to 30 of his high dollar donors asking for more money.

    September 17, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  18. ug

    Just more spin from the liberal media no goods...obama is the coutry's benedict arnold.

    September 17, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  19. silvergoal

    CNN has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the recordings.......WHAT??? Too much trouble for CNN to validate before giving it a headline? LOL

    September 17, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  20. Kyle

    That's going to hurt in the morning.

    September 17, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  21. chenne

    PAAAWLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZZ....this is old stuff. Run out of material?

    September 17, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  22. Jay T

    Hey Mr. Romney. Why don't you just throw in the towel now? I think the Chinese working condition knowledge is more upsetting than your personl beliefs.

    September 17, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  23. rla

    Guess what HE IS RIGHT and those who are working hard get it- look at the suddenn rush to SS disability??? My Dr is livid at the people coming in to get on disability that she knows are faking it and has been told that this course was recommended by accountants??? Go figure but the America of self discipline is about over if we elect Obama

    September 17, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  24. Gary Bonner


    September 17, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  25. JPO

    Well, I foe one, am not dependent on the government for a handout but I will vote for Obama anyway. I see the Republicans taking us down a one way trip to a two class society, the very rich and the very poor. If anyone wants to see how that works they have only to look to Mexico.

    September 17, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
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