Mitt Romney today defended comments he made in a leaked video where he’s heard saying nearly half of Americans are “victims” who rely on government handouts.
In his first extended interview since a controversy erupted over comments made to donors, Romney told Fox News that his intent was to highlight a “great divide” facing voters in the election.
On President Obama’s side, he said, are people who want a government that is “larger and more intrusive.” Romney and his supporters want to “protect freedom and opportunity” so individuals can build wealth, the GOP presidential nominee said.
“I believe the right course for America is one where government steps in to help those that are in need,” Romney told Neil Cavuto of Fox News. “We’re a compassionate people, but then we let people build their own lives, create enterprises. We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution. The right course for America is to create growth, create wealth, not to redistribute wealth.”
Romney criticized Obama’s past comments about redistributing wealth. The Republican candidate referenced a 1998 audiotape of Obama, linked from the Drudge Report, in which Obama says “I actually believe in redistribution.”
Obama can be heard on the 1998 tape talking about the effectiveness of government programs. At one point he asks: “How do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution.”
Asked about his reference to the 47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes, Romney said there should be enough jobs so that “people have the privilege of higher incomes that allow them to be paying taxes.”
“I think people would like to be paying taxes,” Romney continued. “The right course is not just to have government handing out but instead helping people get back to good jobs.”
Obama’s re-election campaign posted a Web video earlier today, featuring remarks of people reacting to Romney’s comments.