Mitt Romney has responded at length to the furor over his comments at a fundraiser about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax and see themselves as "victims." "My job is not to worry about those people," Romney said in the video.
The comments were "not elegantly stated," and were spoken "off the cuff," Romney acknowledged Monday night in a hastily convened press availability with reporters. But he also doubled down on the outlook he espoused in the video, charging that "the president's approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes."
The comments from the fundraiser were recorded surreptitiously, and obtained by David Corn of the liberal magazine Mother Jones. Corn appeared Monday night on Hardball and The Rachel Maddow Show, where he revealed further details about the video.
Here are Romney's extended comments about the controversy tonight, footage of which was broadcast on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell (you can watch them above):
I'm talking about the political process of drawing people into my campaign. Of course, individuals are going to take more responsibility for their life. My campaign is about helping people take responsibility, and becoming employed again, particularly those that done have work. This whole campaign is focused on getting people jobs again, putting people back to work. This is ultimately a question about direction for 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 how to pursue their dreams? I believe the latter will help more people get good jobs. This is a campaign, fundamentally, about to help the middle class in America, and how to bring people out of poverty into the middle class. And we've seen the results of the last three, four years, and it has not worked. My approach will get 12 million new jobs and rising take-home pay.
Asked again about the comments, and whether he was giving a different message to funders than to ordinary voters, Romney replied:
It was not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff, in response to a question, and I'm sure I could state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that. And so I'm sure I'll point that out as time goes on. But we don't even have the question given the snippet there, or the full response. And I hope the person who has the video will put out the full material. But it's a message which I'm gonna carry, which is, look, the president's approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes, because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn't as attractive to them, and therefore I'm not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those who are in the middle. This is really a discussion about the political process of winning an election. And of course I want to help all Americans, all Americans have a bright and prosperous future. And I'm convinced that the president's approach has not done that.
This is the same message that I give to people, which is that we have a very different approach, the president and I, between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams.
"I think what we just saw was part one of Mitt Romney's concession speech of defeat in this campaign," said O'Donnell. "And we will see the rest on election night."