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. Mr. Bean

    I agree with the statement on the 47% that will always vote for Obama. Just look at Hispanics, Obama let's them stay in our country, and know all of them vote for him. Same thing on Blacks. Percent of blacks at GOP convention: 1%. At Democratic convention: 40%

    September 17, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  2. Hawk-Eye

    Well so you say what you mean... Now we know what you mean... Thanks...

    September 17, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  3. Phil

    More free stuff for your Wall Street Victimaires, Rawmunny.

    September 17, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  4. jake

    BUSTED, BUSTED, BUSTED!! It's most definetly over for you now romney. You got caught pal. You are done, done ,done. Just like a republican to self destruct..and so close to election day too. This is the nail in the coffin for your bid to the white house. Not suprised either, was waiting for you to implode. It was only a matter of time till you once again said something really ignorant...but this time it's nasty and you got caught spewing the rhetoric that has indeed killed the very very slim chance you ever had to be president. Obama has this one for sure now and america can breath a sigh of relief for it. Obama/Biden 2012

    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  5. Lionel

    Mitt the Twit is at it again. I can't believe the gaffes from this man.

    Does he think the American voter is stupid and will put him in office.
    He thinks that he deserves the presidency.

    He is a disgrace to the Republican party as if there was anything grace left.

    Latinos for Obama 2012

    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  6. Independent J

    OUCH. A potential President that doesn't care about the people, well only half the people?? The founding fathers and mothers are turning over in their grave.

    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  7. Chris


    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  8. rrb

    Dear Mr. Romney
    I am fortunate to be making over 250K, I work hard, I pay a lot in taxes and I am a DEMOCRAT…..
    NO, I fortunately did not have to take a penny from the govt yet (beyond using the facilities we all enjoy, like the internet, the roads etc)… so I am not your STEREOTYPICAL DEMOCRAT. I am educated, informed and middle class... I made my choices based on this being a village (not a rich mans village) and I am voting for OBAMA and you can count me in the 47+ percent.
    Here is why you lost the election

    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. Ahoy

    Goodbye Romney.

    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  10. Pete

    Hey,another Romney foot in mouth moment from the multiple choice candidate..Nows he's telling voters how the only voters are the ones that vote Pres.Obama for freebies,how ignorent,Independents won't like his stance because they're sick of negetives and Romneys full of that,not much positive has he preached at all!! His VP Ryan campaigning in Wisconsin for his old congresssional seat,does he see what Romney doesn't,like defeat!!

    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  11. Blarg

    Wow... way to go Romney. Your private remarks reflect just how you are described by all the late-night comedians.

    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  12. Anonymous


    September 17, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  13. oluoch


    September 17, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  14. Moalswald

    Romney shows his true colors when he is among friends. You know why so many people don't pay income tax? Because they are POOR and/or they live off social security.

    September 17, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  15. Debra from Atlanta

    Forget you Romney, I am voting for President Obama. I PAY TAXES. I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP YOU LIAR.

    September 17, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  16. Louis

    Per Mitt Romney: I, and "47% of Americans can't be convinced to take personal responsibility and care for my life?" That's pretty offensive. I pay a higher tax rate than he does. Woe is me for not having a billionaire's capital gains and offshore accounts. I guess if you're not rich, you can count on a Romney administration to ignore your concerns.

    September 17, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  17. Jake2247

    Awesome. The beast has revealed itself.

    September 17, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  18. Shakira

    And yet people will still vote for him?? Wow

    September 17, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  19. Jeff

    Romney = dunzo. Republicans who gave this clown money are feeling a lot of buyers remorse today. Romney can't relate to anyone besides bakers, hard labor factory owners, Mormons and racists. Good luck with that GOP. In better news, Gary Johnson is still running as a Libertarian.

    September 17, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  20. OBGeorge

    Dear Mr. Romney,

    I'm an Obama voter. I worked through college and ever since I graduated. I own my own home, mortgage -free. I've paid for both of my kids to go to college. I pay my taxes. And you have the nerve to tell me I don't take personal responsibility for my life?

    September 17, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  21. CB Kid

    From the heart the mouth speaks. I'm not Latino, buy my wife is. I am very very afraid of a romney presidency. Please American people – listen to the deceit and lies coming from this man and his vp candidate.

    September 17, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  22. Mike Joseph

    This sound off is for all the policians in West Virginia. I keep seeing, We supportCoal. The Coal Bowl. Everythin is coal. Where are these politicians when the coal company now is trying to get out of paying Insurace and retirement benefits for retired minors. The signs say for Coal but it definetly doesn't mean for Coal Miners!!!

    September 17, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  23. ATLmatt

    what an a55. he just doesnt get it. I guess with millions of dollars that it is hard to understand someone who barely scrapes by paycheck to paycheck. people like the ones he laid off and made his money off the backs of.

    September 17, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  24. JAGAJ

    Now you can picture that closed door meeting where the GOP coordinated their effort to block the minority vote. Every GOP governor suddenly feels like voter fraud is a problem at the same time? This gives you a glimpse of what the GOP really is and what they think of those less fortunate.

    September 17, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  25. frenchdefens

    Well..I am not sure if 47% is the right number, but there is a lot of truth the statement represented here (even though it has not been verified which seems to be a bit irresponsible to publish without verification).

    In any event, yes, we do have a lot of people in the US dependent upon the government for their support. Some of them through no fault of their own, and some who are lazy, or looking for a free ride. I believe it is likely that most of the folks who fall in this category will vote for Obama, and this economic problem will perpetuate.

    Plus, people like myself are looking at this and thinking, well why should I work 60 hours a week to support these people? It would be smarter for me to work less hours and pay less taxes and preserve my health. And I am about there...demoralized by an economic system that does not reward me for working hard.

    so how does that strike everyone?

    September 17, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
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