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. JAGAJ

    I often find myself amongst wealthy who don't know I grew up poor. This is how they really think. Strangely, I know a lot of poor who are amongst the infamous 47%, who sit unemployed on the their couches watching Fox News complaining about "leaches".

    September 17, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  2. Jen

    Is anybody shocked that Mitt the Twit loathes people who are not wealthy?

    September 17, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  3. fsjunkie

    Somebody had better pat this guy down before he comes near our President again, He's got some screws loose.

    September 17, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  4. just in

    Romney got his hand stuck in the cookie jar

    September 17, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  5. Now That''s Funny

    Lighten up people, as a Latino I found it amusing to hear him say that.

    September 17, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  6. Thedoctor

    Who could be surprised that this is the real, candid Mittens Romney?

    September 17, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  7. RomneyLOL

    It's so sad, yet cute, how some people think Romney can actually win this thing. Where he was once digging his own grave with a shovel, now he's using a bulldozer. How much more embarrassing can you be for the GOP? Oh wait...the debates are right around the corner! Christmas comes early.

    September 17, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  8. ironman59

    There is nothing suprising or shocking about this video. It is fully expected from anyone running on the gop ticket. It is expected of the uber-wealthy. It is expected out of anyone that has never had to struggle to put food on the table, a roof over their head or just survive to the next day.

    This is what we will get if mitt ends up in the White House. I don't like the gop, the gun nuts, the religous nuts, etc. However I don't consider them unimportant, that is the difference.

    September 17, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  9. Just one class

    Oh let me guess..... Another backfired joke Romney, or wait... Didn't think there would be a camera so obviously this should not count towards your public opinion?

    September 17, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  10. Ja-Coffalotte

    Hahhaha, and remember us Lord Mitt when the 47 and another 10 embarrass your party!

    September 17, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  11. sayer

    "I am not concerned about half of the country," Mitt Romney.

    September 17, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  12. normajean @ verizon ,com

    BALONEY......It doesn't matter who is president...there will always be some people who have to be helped but that is nowhere near the huge numbers that have gotten an education gone to work and built a family while paying taxes and doing their job. There are those who have aged,retired and are on Social Security into which they have payed for many years...a portion of which automatically goes toward their medical.. Then there are those who have worked for years only to lose their jobs when the bottom falls out of the economy!!!!There are all forms of society,but to infer that a large number of them are living off the government out of laziness is not only disgusting bit outright lying!! !Romney is good at that!!!!

    September 17, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  13. WHAT?

    How is this any surprise? Romney has admitted to not caring for the very poor. He is so transparent, and no good.

    September 17, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  14. vatoloke

    Referring to his dad, 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."

    El Etcho Sketcho to the max! If he could Etcho Sketcho himself into a Mexican he'd do it at the drop of a hat and even do a hat dance if he thought it would get him a vote. Ay caramba what this man won't do.

    September 17, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  15. C. Devine

    There is a stark honesty in candid moments like that that crystallize the difference between the candidates. Romney is seeking to perpetuate the "us versus them" mentality that motivates the right wing. The problem with this approach is that the "them" is the 80% of the public that occupies the middle ground and does not share the point of view of either the hard right wing or the hard left wing. When the election is over and Romney’s campaign is assessed, one of his major faults will be seen as his allowing his strings to be pulled by the right-wing influences of his party. Romney is quickly losing the middle-grounders and there probably is not enough time to repair the damage before the general election. Obama is doing what is necessary to win the election – allowing Romney to alienate the middle without himself pandering to the left.

    September 17, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  16. Chris Christies little Dick

    Romney's an idiot.

    September 17, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  17. Frank

    The simple FACT id that 82% of Americans pay taxes in one form or another. And those who pay no income taxes are mostly retired or make less than $20,000 a year! And how do we know if Romney pays any income taxes?

    September 17, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  18. RH

    Are we really surprised Romney would say his? I'm not. So sad that he is so out of touch with our country to actually think like this.

    September 17, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. bak


    September 17, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  20. jonathan

    Well Romney it was nice knowing you. Don't let the door hit you on the a ss on the way out.

    September 17, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  21. Johny

    Looks like Romney swift boated himself. lol this guy is finished #RIP

    September 17, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |

    Obama says calls Americans 'clingers' at a fund raiser in 08'... but that's ok. Romney.....well, he's the devil.
    Good job CNN! You are following orders like good soldiers of the revolution. Comrades, stay strong. General Obama will lead us to victory!

    September 17, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  23. GeneK

    47% of American have a lot of nerve, not making enough money to owe any income taxes. But Romney has the answer to that one...

    September 17, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  24. Andres

    Well i have Latino heritage Romney ! I am also a Marine Corps Veteran and during my 32 years of life
    the only time i collected anything from the Government was when i was Honorably Discharged from the Marines
    I COLLECTED 3 weeks of unemployment ! Guess im that 50% not voting for you!
    Obama 2012 ! Mind is made up ! Thanks Romney

    September 17, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  25. alfred hansen

    i think this explains who wants to help the middle class.......what i know about such a statement by a wonna be president is that he has failed to convince me to vote for him.with such an ambigous statement which can be construed as racial or against the poor middle class.romney you have failed your request to have my do not deserve the vote from all students,hispanics,indians ,asian and half of whites because you have created the difference in class and why should we be bothered with you

    September 17, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
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