Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets some of the 10,000 supporters as he departs the stage after a rally with his running mate Paul Ryan at the Augusta Expoland in Fishersville, Va., Oct. 4, 2012.(Photo: Michael Reilly, AP)
FISHERSVILLE, Va. -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt
Romney has described his disparaging remarks about the 47 percent of
Americans who don't pay federal income taxes as "not elegantly stated."
Now he's calling them "just completely wrong."
The original remarks, secretly recorded during a fundraiser in May and posted online in September by the magazine Mother Jones,
sparked intense criticism of Romney and provided fodder to those who
portray him as an out-of-touch millionaire oblivious to the lives of
average Americans. The remarks became a staple of Obama campaign
Initially, Romney defended his view, telling reporters
at a news conference shortly after the video was posted that his remarks
were "not elegantly stated" and that they were spoken "off the cuff."
He didn't disavow them, however, and later adopted as a response when
the remarks were raised that his campaign supports "the 100 percent in
In an interview Thursday night with Fox News, Romney was
asked what he would have said had the "47 percent" comments come up
during his debate in Denver on Wednesday night with President Obama.
"Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of
speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you're going to
say something that doesn't come out right," Romney said. "In this case, I
said something that's just completely wrong."
He added: "And I
absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about
100 percent and that's been demonstrated throughout my life. And this
whole campaign is about the 100 percent."
Critics of Romney's "47
percent" remarks noted that many of those who don't pay federal incomes
taxes pay other forms of taxes. More than 16 million elderly Americans
avoid federal income taxes solely because of tax breaks that apply only
to seniors, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reports. Millions of
others don't pay federal income taxes because they don't earn enough
after deductions and exemptions.
Acknowledging error is rare for
Romney. Asked recently whether his TV ads had strayed from the facts, he
said they had been "absolutely spot-on." Fact-checking operations have
Some conservatives rallied around Romney after
the video surfaced, urging him to stand behind the remarks as accurate
despite the criticism.
"There are 47 percent of the people who
will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said in the video.
"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,
and that his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never
convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for
Romney later told reporters at a news conference
called to address the remarks: "It's 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 in a more effective way than I
did in a setting like that."