Mitt Romney said his comment in a video released earlier today calling many Americans “victims” dependent on the government wasn’t “elegantly stated,” while stopping short of disavowing the remark.
The Republican presidential candidate said tonight that his comments, secretly recorded at a campaign event earlier this year, were made while “speaking off the cuff in response to a question.”
“It’s not elegantly stated,” Romney said outside a campaign fundraiser in Costa Mesa, California. “Of course I want to help all Americans. All Americans have a bright and prosperous future.”
The tape’s release threatened to distract from Romney’s message against President Barack Obama over the handling of the U.S. economy. It also emerged as the former Massachusetts governor seeks to reset his campaign after losing ground to Obama in polls after the political conventions.
In the video, Romney says “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” according to the recording that was obtained by Mother Jones magazine from an unidentified person. It also was posted online by the Huffington Post.
“All right -- 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,” Romney says on the video, adding that they “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.”
The remarks drew criticism from Obama’s re-election campaign. “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,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
Romney said tonight that Obama’s “approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them, and therefore I’m not likely to draw them into my campaign, as effectively as who are in the middle.”