This week’s winner of The Biggest Damn Lie is Mitt Romney. Romney won hands down this week with his 47% comments.
Actor and activist Tatyana Ali; political activist Jeff Johnson, founder of UrbanCusp.com; “Washington Post” contributor, Rahiel Tesfamariam; and, political journalist and TheGrio.com contributor Joe Williams joined Roland Martin on location during the Congressional Black Caucus week to break down Romney’s apparent snub of nearly half of all Americans.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
Lots going on in the news this week. Joining us now: actor and activist Tatyana Ali; political activist Jeff Johnson, founder of UrbanCusp.com; “Washington Post” contributor, Rahiel Tesfamariam; and, political journalist and TheGrio.com contributor Joe Williams.
All right, folks. I want to get right into it.
Very interesting – very interesting this week to sit here and listen to Mitt Romney make his comments. And normally, we go right into our panel, and then we do “The Biggest Damn Lie” later in the week, but right now we’re going to do it off the top. So, here we go. Time for …
[… “THE BIGGEST DAMN LIE” BANNER AND FANFARE.]
MR. MARTIN: All right, folks. The big political news this week, of course, was Mitt Romney and the secret tape, which MotherJones.com published, that took place at a fundraiser Mitt Romney held at a major mansion in Boca Raton, Florida, in – in May. Quite interesting – his comments. Here’s an excerpt of Mitt Romney had to say about the “47 percent.”
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MITT ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President, no matter what. All right? There’re 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that – that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to – you name it. These are people who pay no income tax.
And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MARTIN: All right, folks. So, lots of – [chuckles] – discussion this week on that. Romney basically says, “I’m gonna own it.”
MS. TATYANA ALI: There’re a lot of things that are – [chuckles] – wrong with what Romney said, but for me, just as a citizen of this country, for somebody seeking to be leader of this country, to be the President, to say that half of the country just doesn’t matter; he’s not even going to worry about them at all, I think, is pretty amazing – because you’re supposed to be the President for everybody. Right?
MR. MARTIN: Well –
MS. ALI: Making –
MR. MARTIN: — well, you would want to be, you would think.
MS. ALI: — I would think that that would matter, so I find that just appalling – just on the – the – the base level – for me, as a – as a voter.
MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS: ’Cause I kept wondering who he was talking about, specifically. Now, he talked about “47 percent,” and it was setting where there were a lot of people who didn’t necessarily consider themselves part of that 47 percent. But it almost sounded like another – another episode of code. It almost sounded like, “Well, you know, those people.”
But the problem is that that broad swath of people gets divided up into, like, retirees, the military – you know, all kinds of people who have – [crosstalk]- —
MR. MARTIN: A lot of Ri- — Mitt Romney’s supporters are in that 47 percent!
MS. RAHIEL TESFAMARIAM: Right.
MR. WILLIAMS: — absolutely. But it sounded like – from the tone of his remark – that he was trying to get a message. Now, exactly what that message was – nobody ever called him out on that and asked him specifically who he was talking about because it was so broad, but I’m kind of interested in whether or not that was another example of Mitt Romney being himself and people who are like him, or if it was something like he was trying to send a message to people to try to get them to open their wallets.
MR. MARTIN: You have the stats where 47 percent of the country doesn’t pay federal income tax, but they are paying payroll taxes. Also, you have tax credits that have been created for earned income tax credit. You have mortgage tax credits that middle-class folks also use. Half of the 47 percent – to Joe’s point – are seniors – okay? And what really jumps out when you look at that is that many of these tax credits were signed into law by Republican presidents, because they were trying to push through big tax cuts – like Pres. Ronald Reagan.
MS. TESFAMARIAM: I don’t think we should get so into the percentage that we forget the other terminology that he used. And the terminology was rooted in dependency. When you talk about healthcare, housing, it – it strikes images of – of a welfare system. And to me –
MR. MARTIN: Because he said, ‘They consider themselves victims’ –
MS. TESFAMARIAM: “Victims.”
MR. MARTIN: — ‘and they don’t believe in personal responsibility.’
MS. TESFAMARIAM: Absolutely. And this is usually code word for people of color – minority groups; immigrant groups; people who are dependent on the government for their support, for their prosperity – people who look like us, essentially. So, it’s raci- — racialized language, and I think the percentage was safe because he didn’t have to get into the details of it. Right? But he’s ultimately talking about people who don’t look like him, who don’t look like the White, rich donors that were in that space.
And he got very comfortable. And, I think, in that comfortable space, he said things that we would never hear if he was on the campaign trail. And I – I really wonder, you know, do we understand what it means when he can say those things to wealthy supporters and – and would refuse to – to admit to that as – as how he really feels? You know, it’s – it’s not mere politics. This is how he essentially feels.
MR. JEFF JOHNSON: I don’t – I don’t think he knows how he feels.
MR. JOHNSON: A- — and – and I think, at the – at the end of the day, we have seen Mitt Romney in multiple scenarios for the last two decades say whatever is necessary in any place –
OFF CAMERA: Right.
MR. JOHNSON: — at any time. And so I’m – I’m not surprised by it. I’m not even offended.
What I’m offended by is that he’s even running for President.
OFF CAMERA: Um-mm!
MR. JOHNSON: And – and what I’m –
MR. JOHNSON: — offended by is the fact that you have somebody who –
MR. JOHNSON: — clearly has no character that has the possibility of being President – the – the fact that I’m going around the country trying to get people excited to beat Mitt Romney is offensive. And so that’s – that’s what I’m offended by. I – I think that – that – that we need to continue to push this 47 percent, because I think it’s an indication – regardless of who he’s talking about – that he’s disconnected from the vast majority of American people, regardless of party. And that alone makes him ineligible to be the best president that we need at – not just during this time, but any time.