At a closed-door fundraiser earlier this year, Mitt Romney dismissed all of President Obama’s supporters as people who are dependent on government, pay no income tax, and believe they are victims.
Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, obtained video and audio from the fundraiser but would not disclose the date or location of the event to protect the confidentiality of its source.
In the video, Romney can be heard saying: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, here are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
“And they will vote for this president no matter what.... These are people who pay no income tax,” Romney said. "[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Romney also joked that "it would be helpful" to his election prospects if his father, who was born in Mexico, had been born to Mexican instead of American parents.
The video revealed Romney was much more candid and expansive in expressing his views when addressing big contributors than the campaign talking points he tends to stick to in public appearances and interviews.
Its release generated intense interest on Monday and threatened to further disrupt Romney’s campaign, which was already battling news accounts of internal disarray. In an effort at damage control, Romney called an unscheduled press briefing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, Calif. He acknowledged that his comments on the video were not artful, but said that he was discussing politics, not policy, and that he stands by them.
“It’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way,” he said. “I’m speaking off the cuff, in response to a question, and I’m sure I can state it more clearly, in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that. … But it’s a message which I’m going to continue to carry, which is, the president’s approach is attractive to people who aren’t paying taxes, because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them and therefore I’m not likely to draw them in to my campaign as effectively as those who are in the middle. ... Of course I want to help all Americans have a bright and prosperous future. And I’m convinced the president’s approach has not done that and will not do that.”
Democrats quickly incorporated the video into their messaging. "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,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
Romney communications director Gail Gitcho said in a statement that "Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy." She said he has made clear "all year" that he is concerned about "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."
It is the second instance in the last few days of a video clip being leaked from a Romney fundraiser; the first showed Romney talking about conditions in a Chinese factory.
Obama had his own problems in the 2008 campaign with a video secretly shot by a Huffington Post citizen-reporter at a closed fundraiser. That's how the world found out he had said rural voters beset by economic insecurity were "clinging" to guns and religion.
A new conservative talking point this year is that 51 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax. They do, however, pay sales, property, Social Security, and Medicare taxes, among others.