Mitt Romney held a hastily arranged press conference to engage in damage control hours after a video surfaced that showed him at a private May fundraiser describing 47 percent of the country as “dependent upon the government.”
The GOP nominee for president defended his remarks – first printed in the liberal magazine Mother Jones – while conceding they were not “elegantly stated.”
“I am sure I can state it more clearly and effectively than I did in a setting like that,” he told reporters assembled quickly at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts before attending a fundraiser.
Romney said the video didn’t fully capture his views or his entire comments about personal responsibility and the role of government in society.
“I am talking about a political process of drawing people in my campaign. … My campaign is about helping people take more responsibility,” Romney said.
“This is ultimately a question about the direction of the country. Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits? Or do you believe instead in a free-enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams?”
Romney was responding to the furor surrounding the release of a surreptitiously taped video of him speaking at a closed-door, $50,000-a-person fundraiser describing 47 percent of voters as non-taxpayers so dependent on government services that they’re bound to vote for President Barack Obama in November.
“There 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,” Romney appears to be saying in the video.
Mother Jones posted the video on its website Monday afternoon and, while vouching for the authenticity, initially refused to name the location of the event or provide a date when it occurred, saying only that it was after Romney secured the GOP nomination.
In an appearance Monday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” David Corn, author of the Mother Jones story, revealed that the video was recorded on May 17 at a fundraiser at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of investment banker Marc Leder.
Romney had spoken at a reception before the dinner where a reporter was permitted inside. At the time, his campaign indicated the priciest tickets at $50,000 included dinner – into which the press wasn’t allowed.
The video has been altered to blur the objects surrounding Romney and appears to be from a camera located in the back of the room, near a waiters’ table.
In the video, Romney asserted that 47 percent of people pay no income tax.
“So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect,” he said.
Romney went on to explain that he isn’t trying to court those voters.
“My job is not to worry about those people,” Romney said. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Earlier on Monday, Romney’s campaign pushed back on the candidate’s remarks in the video, although it did not directly address the video or attempt to refute the recording.
“Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy,” Romney communications director Gail Gitcho said in a statement. “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.”
The video quickly drew rebuke from Obama’s campaign, which called it “shocking” that he would describe half of the nation’s residents in such unflattering terms.
“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.
Read more at POLITICO.