September 19th, 2012
12:56 PM ET

Romney's remarks huge mistake or plain truth?

David A. Rice feels like Mitt Romney wrote him off.

The 61-year-old has always been a values-based voter, generally votes Republican and could be a key vote in the swing state of Florida. But he's also among the 47% of Americans that Mitt Romney said don't pay income tax and rely on government support.

"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in a clip from a secretly filmed private donor meeting in May, which was first posted on Monday afternoon. "There are 47% 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's '47%' – Washington's tax-break obsession to blame

Rice says he is working part-time and doesn't pay taxes because he can't find a good job. And the fact that Romney wrote him off in those comments is frustrating.

"I am insulted. I support you and you just wrote me off with the 47% who pay no taxes. In that group are those who cry every time they use food stamps; people who would trade them in a minute for a real job. In that group are Christians who shudder at the thought of voting for abortion and gay rights," he wrote in an iReport. "You have strengths that appeal to the demographic you just wrote off ... use it! In the middle of rich supporters you cannot afford to write off a huge group with a careless word."

The 61-year-old said that he has been forced once or twice to take food stamps - and unlike what Romney contends in his comments - he maintains it was not something he was proud of or hopes to ever have to do again.

"It really hurt me," the iReporter told CNN. "It was not something that I wanted to do, I did it because I didn't have a job."

Rice says he didn't think it was right for Romney to lump every low-income person into the same group.

"Not everyone who takes food stamps is a food stamps junkie," Rice told CNN. "There are people who think the government owes them a living and that the government ought to take care of them and be their momma and daddy all their life. That doesn't apply to everyone."

It all left Rice a bit uneasy.

Which leads to the big questions swirling around the Romney campaign: How much damage will Romney's comments do to his chances for winning the election? Were his comments a big enough gaffe, combined with previous missteps, to really dent his campaign? Were his comments just the brutal truth others don't want to hear? Will it sway the votes of Republicans, independents or the undecided?

Rice says he'll still be voting for Romney because of the candidate's social views. But he knows it may not be the same for others.

"I think it was a mistake on his part because he insulted a lot of people who he needs to vote for him," he said.

CNN asked our readers on Facebook what they thought about the remarks and more than 71% said Romney was wrong and should apologize. Twenty-four percent of readers who answered our unscientific poll said he was right, and it was something someone needed to say. Just about 4.5% felt that Romney was right but shouldn't have phrased the remarks the way he did.

Nevin Sanli, from Los Angeles, California, said he is in the 47% and Romney's recent remarks, as well as other gaffes, have sealed his decision to vote for Obama.

"I never took a penny in help or government assistance money or otherwise. I own two businesses, and all I have been doing, along with my business partners, is creating jobs. I am not a victim," Sanli said in response to the CNN poll on Facebook. "I worked hard and built it all from scratch and I pay a lot of taxes. I am not as rich as Romney, but I sure pay a much bigger percentage of my income in taxes than he does. I find his remarks to be un-American, shocking and insulting."

And definitely unbecoming a president, he added.

"Elitism, silver-spoon arrogance and outright divisive statements, with undertones of racism, cannot be attributes of an American president," Sanli wrote.

For his part, Romney has stood behind the comments from the secretly recorded video. They were an honest reflection of his campaign's message, he said.

"This is a message I'm carrying day in and day out and will carry over the coming months," Romney said on Fox News. "This is a decision about the course of America, where we're going to head. We've seen the president's policies play out over the last four years."

Kristopher Daughtrey agreed with those tough words and took them to show that Romney won't shy away from the truth and will stick to his convictions.

"I applaud Romney for his remarks. He's the only one willing to not sugarcoat it. I'm not a huge supporter of either party, but at least Romney has the guts to speak out frankly about it, instead of Obama, Congress, and other politicians trying to justify their actions constantly or running away with their tail between their legs," Daughtrey said. "If you're going to be president then you need to have the backbone to walk the walk and not just talk about it."

Jason Asselin, an iReporter from Iron Mountain, Michigan, is an independent who says that he generally votes for the best candidate, despite their affiliation, though he likes the ideas and stances of the tea party.

While Asselin is normally a critic of Obama, he said Romney's comments really angered him because he doesn't pay taxes, but it isn't because he doesn't want to.

"I try paying taxes each year and every year they say we don't make enough, it isn't that I don't want to pay my taxes - they won't take them," he says. "Our government put rules and regulations in place for the lower class of people. It isn't our fault for falling under that. I don't like being called the 47%, I'd like to be called American."

Asselin said he is frustrated that Romney makes assumptions about how he will vote. And he is not alone.

Jeff Zicker, 21, might have been a candidate for the 47% category. He's college-aged, but left college because he landed a job performing with a national Broadway tour. He worked two jobs all through college, and these days he pays all his taxes, which puts him in the 53% category.

“For (Romney) to say his plan only appeals to those who don’t victimize themselves just further proves how out of touch he is with the rest of the American public,” he said.

Zicker is a moderate Democrat who will be voting for Obama this fall.

“I honestly believe that somebody that would say that a large of a portion of Americans, that this group victimizes themselves and tries to appeal to voters in that way, I don’t think that shows that they would be fit in any way to be president," he said.

But others say that Romney is merely beginning a dialogue that many Americans refuse to have. Steven Evans said that he thinks the discussion is an important one as the country moves forward.

"It is time to start a national dialogue on whether we are creating a major dependency class," he said on Facebook. "I am glad to see him tell the truth. Let's decide whether we are going the way of Greece or the traditional USA."

But some believe that having that conversation with only half of the country is problematic.

“It’s not in touch with what America’s values are and what we should be in a country," Zicker said of Romney's comments. "At the end of the day, we’re all connected. What I do affects you economically and socially. We shouldn’t see it as an one-for-all system.”

soundoff (4,198 Responses)
  1. Tom

    It's always someone else's fault in America. It's not my fault I didn't get an education. It's not my fault I'm fat. It's not my fault I use drugs. It's not my fault I don't get paid what I want. It's not my fault I don't do my job well. Guess what America, MOST of you (not all) are where you are in life because of YOU. That is not my fault.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • merlisa

      Of course there are folks who see themselves as victims, those who cheat on taxes and those who manipulate the system.
      But you are a sad, cold-hearted person if you really believe that 47 percent of all Americans "will never take personal responsibility" for themselves.

      That is what Mitt said. No amount of spin can change the fact that he said it, and with such ease and conviction.

      September 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • BG

      tom has the answer, you can't cure chronically poor or chronically drug addicted, you can only make them dependent on hand outs.

      Why did obozo take away the work requirement? Why are people up in arms in Florida over taking a drug test to collect welfare?

      September 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • CB

      BG- Obama did not take away the work requirement. That has been debunked over and over and over again.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • TiredOfPaying

      The initial drug testing in Florida revealed that only 3% of the people receiving benefits tested positive for drugs, while the national average is 10%. So you and your co-workers are 3x more likely to be 'drug addicts' than those on unemployment. Oh, and it cost the state $200,000 even after taking away the benefits from that 3%.

      In other words,drug testing people receiving benefits is not saving any money and is focused on the wrong groups. But don't let any facts get in the way of your bigotry.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Tom, you are blaming other people for causing your problems, and you think the root cause is that they blame others for causing their problems. Do you see your circular logic? I've got a few new words for you: "we" and "transference". you should learn what these words mean.

      September 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. integermovies

    uhhhhh yeah. poor people vote democrat. how else do you think fdr was prez for 12 years? at the end of the day, its in the best interest of liberal policy to keep you down. remember that.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • VNov5

      Not from an electoral college point: The top 10 poorest states are all red. The dumb ones too. One day their benevolent masters will trickle down some gruel from their plutocratic mansions and thier consistent "social" votes will not be in vain!

      September 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |

      What a bunch of bull!! Dems believe in a rising tide floats all boats! When middle class have more money in their pocket they spend it which stimulates the economy. Businesses make more money and can then in turn higher more people, lowering the unemployment rate, creating more revenue for the government which in turn lowers the debt

      September 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sam

    I am a female from another country and lived here for 31 years. Even in the direst of my situations, government did not come to my aid – I have paid plenty of taxes and then some – not once have I collected any government benefits. I voted and will vote for Obama. According to Romney – I come under the 47% (meaning I vote for Obama and thus I must be a loser) – which couldn't be further from the truth.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • VNov5

      I'm well within the top 1% and I am voting for Obama. Did you know that Romney's father was on welfare?

      September 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. just a guy

    The notion that a significant portion of our population wants governement support is pure mythology. There are people who do take advantage of the system, but most who tke assistance do so out of a temporary need and not as a permanent condition. Romney's comments are immoral, reflect his insular upbringing and are entirely unAmerican.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dgatwood

    On the one hand, I applaud Romney for having the guts to criticize freeloaders. On the other hand, if he truly believes that nearly half of all Americans are freeloaders, then he's either crazy or a complete idiot. 0.47%, maybe. I *might* even believe 4.7% (though that seems unlikely)....

    The fact is, most of those 47% pay no taxes because they are making at or below the poverty line, working for a meager living. They're not leeching off of anybody; if anything, the reverse is true—they pay no taxes because their income is low, and their income is low because wealthy people leech off of them by paying them inadequate wages for their labor.

    When a family of three or four can barely cover their basic living expenses on two minimum-wage jobs, the minimum wage is simply too low. Minimum wage should be more like $15 per hour in most places—possibly even higher in cities. The fact that Romney thinks that people who work hard and are still struggling to keep the power company from cutting off their lights should pay more in taxes is indicative of a fairly fundamental disconnect between the Republican party and a sizable percentage of the voters who support them.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PeterD

    Finally CNN has corrected it's Headline.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Just want a small say in this

    Not sure what has happened with common sense. I think that Romney certainly should have stated his opinion being a bit more humble, but what he said has been taken way out of context and people are applying his words to another level of their own meaning. Let's face facts, there are people that are not paying taxes in this country, his statement may have seemed harsh BUT he was not lying. We are $16 TRILLION dollars in debt. When is anyone going to wake up that this number is on the verge of becoming something that cannot be overcome for decades? It is called MATH. Maybe everyone should go back to a basic Math class and learn it all over again because we seem to be a nation that cannot add and subtract.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Olivia Giron

    What is the big deal..I think he spoke the truth and what upsets the people is that the truth always hurts. Yes, many lost their jobs or are working part-time and do need the help of the government as a temporary solution, which is fine but there are those who do depend on the government to help all the time and have made it permanent, year after year and so on. And then there are those that aren't here legally and don't pay taxes, because they can't, no social security!! The government needs to fix this problems also but the truth is that he spoke the truth and it hurts to hear it plain and simple.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Frank Ilardi

    Food Stamp Junkie. That tells me our govt. knows about the misuse so why dont they stop it? Mitt, if your on speed, Shut Up when you dont have nothing to say.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Barry

    Another one bites the dust! Another one bites the dust! And another one gone, another one gone! Another one bites the dust!

    September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim R

      You mean on November 7th? Another Jimmy Carter bites the dust

      September 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AaronT3

    A Gaffe is a social blunder; faux pas., Willard "Etch-A-Sketch" Romney stated exactly how he feels, there is no gaffe with this guy. He's repeated stated he's for the 1% is there ANY reason any of you should think he does not mean?

    September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tamsrestaurant

    Yes,He tell the truth,I know a lot of the people get the food stemps and medicare,house.... Even they do have lots money,They still got from goverment's help.I have houses rent to the section A people,the goverment paid all their bill,Includent electric city and phone Etc,They drive lexus and watch big tv,Those people richer than me.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zella

      It's Section *, not Section A, so that tells me right there you are making this up.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zella

      Section 8. rather.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John Brown

    There are tons of Americans who want whatever they can get for free. Not what they need but what they want or can get for free...Look at the massive lines that were created upon rumors of free Obama money...Thats a fact!

    We have a huge problem with people not wanting to work and to live off of what they can get for free...

    People from all over the world migrate here and they make it!!!!! Often for less then minimum wage and they send money back to their country and STILL survive...

    Americans have gotten spoiled....

    We all know this but its not politically correct to say and suicide for a republican presidential nominee.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. samwhatam

    47% of Americans that Mitt Romney said don't pay income tax and rely on government support. According to tax foundation, 47% don't pay income tax. That set is a different set then people relying on govt. support. The sets may overlap but the figure of 47% too high. Romney is factual wrong. Again according to tax foundation nine of the top ten states that have the largest percentage of Americans pay no income tax are located in the south. from SC to TX, and including FL. These states vote republicans. So Romney is factual incorrect again.
    In 1980 13 refugees came to my house. We used food stamps to take care of them. Now, one is Pharmacist, another a nurse, another a car wash owner (value $5million), computer specialists, and so for. They have paid for the food stamps may times over.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Brown

      Sam- THATS exactly what food stamps are for!!! not to live off of....

      People who were on food stamps when those refuges were at your house are still on food stamps....THAT needs to stop.....

      September 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NothingButTheTruth

    Let me tell all you greedy, foul-ball MF's out there something. This includes every lazy asss that plays the system to every lying crook that plays the system, including Mr. Romney. There will come a time that all the money, all the food stamps all the BS you can muster won't help your sorry asss when things go down. And things will go down.

    To the people out there keeping it real. Working hard for themselves and their family and still don't have a damn thing to show for it because there's too many freeloaders riding on their back. Too many greedy sob's that never have enough money and won't even say thank you for helping them get theirs., you will be looked at as the rightous when it all goes down, for the meek shall enherit the earth. To yourself, be true.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
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