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. pflatman

    I wish you were Latino, too, Mittens. You might have a different perspective of America.

    September 17, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  2. Twainland

    Game, set, match, Obama 2012

    September 17, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  3. reneg28

    Romney is clearly the wrong person to lead America. I hope we don't make the same mistake like we did with George W. and elect this fool.

    September 17, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  4. josh1010

    Yup, that was just a matter of time...

    September 17, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  5. Imvotingforobama

    There you have it folks. This is the man you want running the country? A rich racist? I'm glad Canada is not that far away if Mittens wins.

    September 17, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  6. DG

    Isn't part of what is wrong with America today is stereotyping people and being so judgmental? He managed to do both of those things and insult almost half of American in one fell swoop. Wow. Extremely disappointed. He lost votes today and came off like a complete jerk.

    September 17, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  7. Justme

    Speaking as a simple citizen of these united states, who lives paycheck to paycheck, with nothing more than a HS diploma, I am sickened to think it is believed 47% of americams think they are victims. That number is way to low. I know plenty of people not on a government check who think themselves victims, and will vote for Obama in hopes of getting a piece of that government pie.

    September 17, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  8. zaphed

    sorry to say that. Romney is a butt.. Butt that is talking. I am not dependent on government but I never met a repulican that I liked. I have money and a good net worth but i do not like them. They are dispecable.

    September 17, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  9. ogthug

    Well Romney again you have step it! Hope you got a big shovel.

    September 17, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  10. Mitt Romney

    I jest. I'd like to re-state myself and say the exact opposite. (Works on Kolob)

    September 17, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  11. stlounick

    Romney, you've kicked a hornet's nest with that 47% of those supporting Obama are all moochers. I'm a long-time Obama supporter and I'm certainly not a moocher. And it would be best to figure out that red states have a goodly number of struggling folk who vote for the GOP....but apparently you don't want to admit that.....

    September 17, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  12. William

    This video can't be real and it's comical to think otherwise. I mean, think about it – Romney is running for President. He is forced to care about everyone and not just the rich people. He even said he would give tax cuts to the middle class and give vouchers for health care so we can get out of debt. Romney cares about America and these videos are obviously a forgery! Please stop reporting about this trash – you'll notice Fox doesn't have this on their site because they know it's not true!

    September 17, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  13. lavender

    lol..MItt when will you stop opening your mouth to insert foot..the longer this goes on the more ridiculous it is that you become president. tell us how you really feel.

    September 17, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Romney's comments are insulting and wrong. Shocking and disgraceful for a presidential candidate! No amount of political spin by his surrogates will correct this gaffe.

    September 17, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  15. True Colors

    Mitt Romney as himself. His wife refers to American people as ya'll people. You type of people. She gets it from Mitt.

    September 17, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  16. Matt

    I've personally paid many millions of dollars in federal income taxes. I paid a far higher percentage of my income than Romney has.
    While I wish the tax dollars were better spent, I do not begrudge a single dollar spent on improving infrastructure, feeding the poor, and caring for the sick.
    Romney speaks for and supports a greedy set of elitists who lack compassion and a moral compass. The USA is only as great as its people, but Romney doesn't care for the people of this country, and therefore doesn't care for this country.

    September 17, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  17. NICE

    That's all I have to say

    September 17, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  18. robert

    CNN has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the recordings. So you post material you have no idea if it is fake or real???

    September 17, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  19. HabsFan29

    There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims…These are people who pay no income tax.

    How is this not the lead story on CNN and every MSM outlet? Finally Mitt Romney says what he believes. Talk about stepping in it.

    And really.. "pay no income tax"???? Pot, kettle, irony, etc.

    September 17, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Mitt your hood is showing

    September 17, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  21. Dee

    This just shows the personal disdain he has for anyone he regards as not as good as he is. Certainly not presidential material. Obama/Biden 2012!

    September 17, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  22. Florida Dude

    October surprise come early...the hits just keep on coming.

    September 17, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  23. Jake

    I think this can be characterized as a proverbial "bed-wetting" by Willard...

    September 17, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  24. jad

    Wow this guy is unbelievable obama 2012

    September 17, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  25. Jeeri Carlos

    this guy have No place as a commander in chief at this nation

    September 17, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
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