Mitt Romney disavowed his much-criticized statement that the 47% of Americans who supported President Obama paid no taxes, considered themselves “victims” and refused to take responsibility for their lives, saying in a Thursday night interview that he had been “completely wrong.”
“Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you say something [that] doesn’t come out right,” the Republican presidential nominee said on Fox News. “In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”
Romney spoke in an interview with Sean Hannity, who asked what he’d have said if Obama had brought up the 47% remark during their Wednesday night debate. Democrats have used the line in campaign ads.
For more than two weeks, Romney has faced a backlash after the covertly taped video of him speaking to donors was published online by Mother Jones magazine. In that video, from a Florida fundraiser in May, the candidate described the 47% of Americans who paid no federal income tax last year as being Obama supporters who are dependent on government, believing they are “victims.” He said they were “unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.”
After the video came to light, Romney stood by his remarks but said that his point was “not elegantly stated.” He has also strived to emphasize that he cares for all Americans, and continued that defense Thursday.
“I absolutely believe my life has shown that I care about 100%, and that has been demonstrated throughout my life, and this whole campaign is about the 100%,” he said.
Political experts had expected Obama to raise the 47% comment during the first presidential debate Wednesday evening, but he did not. Obama disappointed many Democrats when he turned in what many agree was a lackluster performance.
Romney told Fox that he was glad the debate had focused on issues rather than gaffes, calling it “an evening of substance.”
“I was pleased that I had a chance to talk about my vision for America, and the president was able to answer some questions that I posed that I think Americans across the country wanted to have answered,” he said, adding that he appreciated the moderation by Jim Lehrer, which was widely panned. “It was not a big ‘gotcha’ night coming from the moderator but instead was a chance for the president and I to go toe-to-toe on the important issues that people care about.”
Romney also previewed his criticism of Obama’s handling of foreign policy, which will be the subject of a future debate.
He highlighted the crisis in Libya that resulted in the deaths of an American ambassador and three other Americans. Describing the attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as a “tragic failure,” Romney said:
“There had been warnings of possible attacks, there had been requests … to have additional security forces. They were turned down. And then following the tragedy we saw, well, misleading information coming from the administration. In fact, the president didn’t acknowledge this was a terrorist attack for a week or two? I mean, this was a terrorist attack, lives were lost, this happened on 9/11. We expect candor and transparency from the president and from the administration. We didn’t get it.”
When the Benghazi attack happened last month, Romney accused the administration of having sympathy for Mideast demonstrators angered by a YouTube trailer of a movie depicting the prophet Muhammad as a child molester and womanizer. At the time, some fellow Republicans criticized Romney’s quick comments, especially after it became apparent that one of the four dead was the American ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens.