“My life has shown that I care about 100 percent, and that’s been demonstrated throughout my life,” Romney told conservative commentator Sean Hannity on Fox News. “And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.”
At a fundraiser in May, Romney told wealthy donors that nearly half of Americans are government freeloaders who see themselves as “victims,” can’t be convinced to take personal responsibility for their lives and will support President Obama in the election “no matter what.”
“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,” Romney said.
When a surreptitiously recorded video of the event surfaced last month, Romney refused to back away from the comments, though he conceded that they were “not elegantly stated.” But in battleground states, he saw his poll numbers slip, as the Obama campaign used the remarks in its television ads to portray Romney as a heartless, out-of-touch plutocrat who doesn’t understand the struggles of everyday Americans.
Romney was prepared to try and explainhis remarks during the first presidential debate on Wednesday night, but he wasn’t asked about them. On Thursday, Hannity asked the candidate what he would have said about the comments during the debate, if he had been given the opportunity.
“Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Romney answered.
“In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”
“. . . When I become president, it will be about helping the 100 percent,” Romney continued. “. . . [F]or me, this is all about the 100 percent. And, you know, the president can talk about the things he’d like to talk about — I’m going to talk about how I’m going to get America working again and help all the people of this country.”
The video of Romney answering questions from donors at the May fundraiser, held at a private residence in Boca Raton, Fla., was released by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine in September. It spawned several weeks of hand-wringing within the GOP, especially among the conservative commentariat, who speculated that the remarks may have been fatal to Romney’s candidacy.
In the video, Romney is recorded telling donors, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that 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 later said he had been speaking as a political pundit, analyzing the electorate and merely explaining that nearly half of the country’s voters were a solid lock for Obama.
Still, the remarks pierced the national consciousness in a way that few blunders do and became a defining element of Romney’s candidacy.
On Hannity’s show Thursday, Romney, for the most part, did not gloat about his good reviews from Wednesday’s debate. He demurred when the host asked him if perhaps former vice president Al Gore was right that Obama’s poor performance could be attributed toaltitude sickness.
Romney — who was joined for part of the 15-minute interview by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) — just chuckled, and said that he was glad the country had finally gotten a chance to hear him talk about his plans to create jobs and improve the economy.
Hannity asked Romney to respond to Obama’s assertions since the debate that the GOP nominee was not honest in his answers during the 90-minute give-and-take. Romney said that the president could not defend his record and was merely continuing his campaign of “character assassination.”
Romney also did not as far as Hannity in describing the Obama administration’s handling of the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Libya as “a cover-up.” But he did say the deaths were the result of a “failure” to heed “warnings of a possible attack” and said that so far the public has not gotten “transparency” from the administration.
Williams reported from Washington