During a press conference on Monday night, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney admitted remarks he made in a recently published video were "not elegantly stated."
Romney said he was just talking "off the cuff" when he described President Barack Obama's supporters as people "who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them." He refused to distance himself from his prior remarks, which were published online Monday afternoon, and insisted the President's policies were "attractive" to people who didn't pay taxes.
"Of course individuals are going to take responsibility for their life and my campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again, particularly those who don't have work," he said. "This whole campaign is focused on getting people jobs again, putting people back to work. This is ultimately a question about the direction of the country. Do you believe in a government-centered society that provides more and more benefits or do you believe instead in a free enterprise society where people are able to pursue their dreams. I believe the latter will help more people get good jobs."
Mother Jones obtained the video from an anonymous source who taped Romney during a fundraising event at the home of private equity manager Marc Leder on May 17. The video shows Romney claimed nearly half of Americans were "dependent upon government" and therefore going to vote for President Barack Obama.
"These are people who pay no income tax... My job is is not to worry about those people," he added. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Nearly 47 percent of households didn’t owe federal income taxes because their incomes were too low or because of tax breaks in 2011. But the majority of those households still paid other federal and state taxes. Most of those who did not owe any federal income taxes or payroll taxes in 2011 were elderly, disabled or students, according to the Center for Budget Priorities.
Romney also said at the fundraising event that he would improve the economy, "without actually doing anything."
"It depends of course which markets you're talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country," he explained.
Obama’s re-election campaign quickly condemned Romney over the leaked video.
“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,” said Jim Messina, Obama for America Campaign Manager. “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.
Watch Mother Jones' videos from the fundraiser below: