In a potentially explosive incident that may do long-lasting damage to his campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney made private remarks to an audience of wealthy donors earlier this year during which he lashed out at Obama supporters as people who don’t take personal responsibility for their lives, who are dependent on the government to take care of them and who don’t pay any taxes.
The videotape was obtained by the liberal Mother Jones magazine, which blurred out the background so that the location couldn’t be identified—to protect the person who turned over the video. But in an appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, David Corn, the writer who wrote the Mother Jones story, said that the speech was made in the Boca Raton home of a wealthy donor on May 17.
In the video, Romney is responding to an audience member who asked him how he could win.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, 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 of them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it,” Romney said.
“That’s an entitlement,” Romney said. “And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax.”
Romney said he had no hopes of convincing those people to vote for him.
“[M]y job is not to worry about those people,” he said. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Campaign experts immediately compared it to the moment in the 2008 campaign when Obama was recorded at a San Francisco fundraiser saying that “bitter” small-town voters “cling to guns or religion”—a sentence that candidate Hillary Clinton used during the 2008 primary to continually bash him and which still gets leveled at him four years later.
Could these statements, coming from the multimillionaire Romney, have the same impact on the Romney campaign?
The Obama campaign immediately attacked Romney, saying that he had effectively written off half the population.
“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,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”
In its defense, the Romney campaign issued the following statement.
“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 1 in 6 Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work,” spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in a statement. “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.”
During the videotape, Romney, while discussing how his father was born in Mexico to American parents, also joked about how he would have a better shot at winning over Latinos and capturing the presidency if his grandparents had been Mexican.
The Los Angeles Times pointed out that Romney’s claim that nearly half of the American population pays no income taxes is accurate.
“But it fails to note that even those Americans pay other taxes, including the federal payroll tax, state taxes and local taxes. Most of those who pay no taxes at all are either destitute, disabled or elderly,” the Times wrote.