WASHINGTON — Already scrambling to steady a struggling campaign, Republican Mitt Romney confronted a new headache Monday after a video surfaced showing him telling wealthy donors that almost half of all Americans "believe they are victims" entitled to extensive government support. He added that as a candidate for the White House, "my job is not to worry about those people."
At a news conference late Monday, Romney conceded the comments weren't "elegantly stated" and that they were spoken "off the cuff."
President Barack Obama's campaign quickly seized on the video, obtained by the magazine Mother Jones and made public on a day that Romney's campaign conceded it needed a change in campaign strategy in the presidential race.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in the video posted online. "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."
"Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax," Romney said.
Romney said his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
The author of the Mother Jones story said the fundraiser where the video was shot took place May 17 in Boca Raton at the home of Marc Leder, a private equity manager, the Washington Post reported.
Romney's campaign did not dispute the authenticity of the video, instead releasing a statement seeking to clarify his remarks. "Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy," spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said. "He is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government."
About 46 percent of Americans owed no federal income tax in 2011, although many of them paid other forms of taxes.
Obama's campaign called the video "shocking"
"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.