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. Ed

    I don't know why this is even controversial - almost half of the people in this country don't pay taxes on a net basis. They are very happy to let others carry the burden. Voting for Obama is their best hope for maintaining the status quo.

    September 17, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  2. ferv888

    Oh, so now this is controversial, tell me that the number is wrong. Goes right along with bitter clinging of those folks to their guns and religion, oh did you miss that from the MSM, yeah most of us did.

    How about Gloria Borger saying the LDS church does not allow women to speak (preach a sermon) in church. I have a wife and 3 daughters who have spoken in Sacrament meetings more times than I can count. When I notified them of the error, did they correct it, no.

    We have to run against the 47% and almost 100% of the media, give me a break.

    September 17, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  3. Mk54

    The Best Republican spin doctors are desperately trying to figure out how to staunch the flow of Mitt Romney's self-inflicted wound.

    September 17, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  4. Flint Rock

    Maybe Mitt should change his last name to Rodriguez.

    September 17, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  5. Namejkane sfl a vote for the gop will cut your moms medicare and soc sec .can you afford to pay for them???

    The gop talks about Americans being dependent on food stamps and saying 24 million unemployed, but forgets to mentioned ,the gop put them there from the bush recession, if you want to go back to that ,vote romney the tax cheat . If it was up to romney the goof and lyin Ryan the bribe taker ,they would let Americans starving to lower the defict . They talk about Obama being the food stamp president ,but the gop put all these people on them and the gop needs to be kicked out of gov for good in Nov.

    September 17, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  6. Lucifer

    Oh willard, you would be more successfull in your campaign if you were not a moron. It has nothing to do with being Latino. Love how you think you can insult nearly 50% of the population and still be a viable candidate.

    September 17, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  7. Michael Hurley

    Romney's family was NOT a missionary family in Mexico. His great grandfather and his several wives fled to Mexico as fugitives when the LDS church got Utah admitted as a state by agreeing that polygamy would be illegal. "One man, one woman" is a joke within the context of the Romneys' traditional family values.

    September 17, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  8. Emil

    Hey mitt. Im the 47%. Im not gonna work for 8 bucks an hour so people like you can become super wealthy. The 1% better be gracious to hand over a little extra crumbs. When the Us Govt stops sending checks out, The rich will lose didnt build your empire. It was built on the backs of peons. Now its built on the backs of immigrant peso earners.

    September 17, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  9. Rob M

    It's over.

    September 17, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  10. ally buster

    Obama's going to win-

    September 17, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  11. Sueb

    Mr. Romney, what makes you think that the 47% who take government handouts are Obama voters? The poorest states are red states. Most of the states who pay less to the government than they get from the government are red states. You lead among seniors who worked their whole lives to get their SS and seems to me, that those voters you are so heartily denigrating are your base.

    September 17, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    The Guy is toast now.

    September 17, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  13. Jeff

    This man isn't trying to help Americans. He's just trying to win.

    September 17, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  14. andrew

    Rommore is his owm worst enermy

    September 17, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  15. DanW

    Wow, I will vote for Obama but I am not a victim, I am not dependent on the government any more than anyone else (think defense, roads, etc.), but I do believe that the government has a responsibility to its citizens. If the government isn't responsible to its citizens, that government needs to go. I also think that there is a social contract that goes like this: I paid Social Security payroll taxes for decades, helping retirees. Should I not expect that the generation after mine will help my generation out just like my generation helped the ones before? Or are we all just living in a world of "get all you can, clutch it to your chest and say to heck with everyone else?" This may be the worst thing I have read about Romney.

    September 17, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  16. Sue

    I take offense to this remark.....I am one for sure that is going to vote for Obama, but I don't and never have felt like I am a victim, I have worked for 47 years and paid my taxes every year and paid a high tax rate than Romney., I never have relied on the govenment for my food, I am now receiving my Social Security and Medicare, but LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR that is my money not the govenments money, I paid into it for all these years and into medicare and it is mine honesty and rightfully, so don't accuse me of being a victim.......and many others that are voting for Obama don't claim to be victims, what we are victims of is Romney's lies and flip flopping and negative ads that claim some of the most outlandish propaganda of any canidate I have ever seen in all my voting years.......every Senior should get behind Obama and stay clear of Romney and Ryan or we will be let out in the cold just like the poor and middle class because that is the groups that most Seniors are in anyway........Romney you just sunk your own ship and the Republican party with would take more than being Latino for you to get elected, you'd also need to be a Gay Female Christian (instead of Mormon) and then I don't know that you would be electable, because you are nothing but a lying, flip flopper that can't decide which side of the fence you are on.......NO WAY JOSE......OBAMA 2012

    September 17, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  17. judith

    This is Romney's most damning moment yet. He shows contempt for a huge portion of hardworking people, who just happen to be less fortunate than him and Queen Ann. I now find him even more loathsome than ever. What a wretched unfeeling, uncaring man!

    September 17, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  18. Charlotte

    Well! That was quick...congratulations President Obama.

    September 17, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  19. luckjoe

    Romney tells the truth!

    September 17, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  20. dan berube

    mitt is toast

    September 17, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  21. Nare

    The guy is evil.

    September 17, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  22. manhandler1

    Turn off the toaster....he's done. When a candidate arrogantly denigrates and pathetically insults half the population just because they're voting for the opponent, he's lost. And then to throw in a racist remark on top of it that is revealed on the day he's courting Latinos....WOW! If I was able to say on this forum what I really thought of this guy, they would never be able to print it.

    September 17, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  23. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Mittens Romney is a true republican crap sandwich.

    September 17, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  24. JOSE L

    OBAMA 2012

    September 17, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  25. Vahe

    Call it a night..this election is over

    September 17, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
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