Romney: Remarks in leaked videos spoken 'off the cuff'
Published Tuesday, September 18, 2012 9:18AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:22AM EDT
Republican Mitt Romney is running damage control after video of the presidential candidate telling wealthy donors that nearly half of Americans “believe that they are victims” was posted online.
The video obtained by news magazine Mother Jones was reportedly captured at a closed-door fundraiser in Florida on May 17 before Romney formally secured the Republican nomination.
In the clip, Romney shares frank opinions about voters who support U.S. President Barack Obama.
“There are 47 per cent 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. That that's an entitlement,” he says.
Another leaked video from the same $50,000-a-plate event shows the former Massachusetts governor questioning the feasibility of a two-state solution for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In the clip, he says Palestinians don’t appear to be interested in peace and are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel.”
The video was shot at a home in Boca Raton, Fla. belonging to private equity manager Marc Leder, Mother Jones reported. On Tuesday it was revealed that the person to leak the tape was none other than the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter, a democrat, who was angry at the GOP’s attacks against his grandfather.
Romney did not refute the authenticity of the video at a news conference held late Monday. Instead, he said his words weren’t “elegantly stated” and were “off the cuff.”
Romney, a multimillionaire businessman, has spent much of the election campaign defending himself against the criticism that his wealth prevents him from relating to the average American. Detractors pointed to his wife’s Cadillacs and his venture capital firm in an effort to prove he is out of touch.
In the video itself, Romney alludes to the remarks made against him.
“What he’s going to do, by the way, is try and vilify me as someone who’s been successful, or who’s, you know, closed businesses or laid people off, and is an evil bad guy,” he said.
The video was posted online the same day Romney’s campaign noted that it would be changing its strategy to catch up to President Obama, who holds a narrow three-point edge in recent polls.
In the video, Romney makes markedly more unpolished comments about his strategy.
“My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to 10 per cent in the centre that are independents,” he tells the small audience.
In a statement issued to The Associated Press, Obama’s campaign referred to the video as “shocking.”
"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.
The Obama campaign also swiftly released a new attack ad, which appeared to show people who had been stopped on the street, shown the video and asked to react.
“Wow, I feel sick to my stomach,” one woman says.
“It shows he’s out of touch if he thinks that half of the country is feeling like victims,” says another.
“If you have a president who tries to separate by demographics, separate by classes, you’re not really a president,” says one man, with his son standing beside him.
Romney also faced criticism from GOP stalwarts like former congressman and current television host Joe Scarborough.
“(New Jersey Gov.) Chris Christie, (vice presidential candidate) Paul Ryan, they would never say that in a million years,” Scarborough said. “This guy is seeming too insulated by wealth and by life experience.”
On Tuesday morning, Romney and his wife Ann appeared on “Live! With Kelly and Michael” sharing a more inclusive message with American voters.
“Everybody in this country -- at one time or another -- will face challenges,” he conceded, adding that he believes his past as a Mormon pastor gave him experience empathizing with people.