In leaked video, Romney says 47 percent of Americans are ‘dependent,’ feel ‘entitled’

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told wealthy donors that nearly half of Americans are dependent on government and believe they are entitled to government-provided food, healthcare and housing, and they will therefore support President Barack Obama, “no matter what.”

Romney’s statements during an undated fundraiser were surreptitiously recorded and provided to Mother Jones magazine’s David Corn. The magazine posted excerpts of the secretly recorded video on its website Monday. On the video, Romney explains why he’s having a hard time reaching nearly half of voters, in response to a question from an audience member:

Q: For the past three years, all everybody’s been told is “don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.” How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections to convince everybody, you’ve got to take care of yourself?

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the 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. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49, 4–he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.

I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is to convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.

TheGrio: Who are the 47 percent?

The Obama campaign quickly responded to the release of the leaked video, issuing a statement from Obama for America Campaign Manager Jim Messina saying:

“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. It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”

And the Romney campaign issued its own statement, saying:

“Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy,” said spokeswoman Gail Gitcho. “As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney’s plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.”

On Twitter, conservatives embraced Romney’s remarks, with some saying they wish he sounded on the campaign trail like he did in the fundraiser.

But others, including AP reporter Kasie Hunt, pointed out that among those who pay no income taxes are members of the active duty military. And Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart summed up Romney’s comments this way:

That condescending clip shows a contempt for half the country that demands an explanation from Romney.

Meanwhile, Josh Barro of Bloomberg put it even more bluntly, writing a post for the financial magazine’s website entitled “Today, Mitt Romney lost the election” and concluding:

Romney is the most opaque presidential nominee since Nixon, and people have been reduced to guessing what his true feelings are. This video provides an answer: He feels that you’re a loser. It’s not an answer that wins elections.

And read the whole story at Mother Jones.

UPDATE: Mother Jones reveals that the video was made during a May 17 fundraiser at the Boca Raton, Florida home of Marc Leder, a controversial hedge fund manager who the New York Times earlier this year described as having inspired Romney to get into the private equity business.

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.