Mitt Romney wasted no time late Monday in responding to backfire from controversial statements he made that were caught on tape. The GOP presidential candidate described his comments "off the cuff" and "not elegantly stated," but still defended the main message of his remarks.
In an effort to save his campaign and his reputation, Romney took a very brief round of questions in a hurried press conference late Monday night in California. The conference was scheduled at the last minute in response to the release of secretly recorded video of the candidate speaking at a private fundraiser in May.
The video, released by the independent news organization Mother Jones, quickly went viral on Monday with its potentially damaging content that was recorded with a hidden camera. In the video, Romney is seen fielding questions from potential campaign supporters in a manner that is clearly not meant for outside eyes.
While responding to a question from a prospective supporter, the former Massachusetts Governor argued that "there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in one clip.
"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. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
Romney was, in some way or another, referring to statistics from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, which estimates that for tax year 2011, 46 percent of households will end up owing nothing in federal income taxes. The statistic does not include payroll taxes, which if included, bring the percentage down to an estimated 18 in 2011.
Regardless of the latter, Romney added to his argument by saying that "job is not to worry about those people."
"I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," he added. "What I have to do is convince the 5 percent to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful."
In addition, Romney joked at the event that he would be more successful in his White House bid if his father were actually Latino, rather than having been born in Mexico to missionary parents from the United States.
"My dad, as you probably, know was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico ... and, uh, had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this," Romney said. "But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico.... I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."
In the press conference on Monday night, Romney walked out to the podium clearly uncomfortable and embarrassed. With a forced smile, he greeted reporters without beating around the bush.
The presidential hopeful tried to convince reporters that he could have stated his original comments "more clearly" but said he was attempting to point out the differences between the two campaigns.
"We have a very different approach - the president and I - between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams," Romney said.
As for why he spoke more candidly with the group of donors, Romney said he was addressing some concerns at the fund-raiser.
"At a fundraiser you have people say, 'Governor how are you going to win this?' And so I respond 'Well, the president has his group, I have my group. I want to keep my team strong and motivated and I want to get those people in the middle.' That's something which fund-raising people who are parting with their monies are very interested in," Romney said.
He also asked for the individual who released the video to release the entire video, rather than "snippets."
The video in question was posted Monday afternoon on Mother Jones. The person responsible for the footage said he or she wishes to remain anonymous for "professional reasons and to avoid a lawsuit," according to the Huffington Post. While the entire video was not released, it was altered dramatically to mask the location and date of the fund-raiser with high-dollar donors. Despite some blurriness, the video does retain full audio from the event.
When the Romney campaign released a statement in response to the issue later Monday, it declined to directly reference the video.
"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 one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. 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," Gail Gitcho, Romney's communications director, said in the statement.
The Obama campaign also waited to no time capitalizing on the controversy, calling his opponents comments "Shocking."
"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.