Editorial: The story behind the ‘47 percent’ video
Even in New Hampshire, whose residents have more access to presidential candidates than those in any other state, it has become harder and harder to know who the candidates really are and what they really think. Presidential contenders, especially those at the top of the field, are guarded, stage-managed, trained to remain relentlessly “on message,” and adept at avoiding tough questions and tailoring their remarks to the audience at hand. Getting behind the veneer is difficult, which is why Scott Prouty did the nation a great service by filming and eventually releasing Mitt Romney’s remarks to the attendees at a $50,000-per-plate campaign fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. Those remarks included Romney’s infamous contention that the “47 percent of people who are dependent on government, who believe they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them . . .” will vote for President Obama no matter what he did or said. “My job is not to worry about those people,” Romney said.
By releasing his video of Romney uttering those words, Prouty, a 38-year-old Florida bartender and Boston-area native, doomed a campaign that at one point was running neck and neck with Obama’s.
Prouty is a blue-collar guy who attended Northeastern University, has bounced around in jobs and been in debt. He was politically aware, passionate about fair treatment of workers and clearly politically astute, but until he filmed Romney, he had not been very active politically. He brought his camera with him to the fundraiser because at a previous event for Bill Clinton, the former president had chatted with the staff and posed for pictures with them. Romney, he thought, might do the same thing. He didn’t. He chided the staff for slow service.
Prouty, so he told David Corn of Mother Jones and others during media interviews, filmed Romney since no one had told employees not to do so. He perked up when he heard the candidate talk of how he went to China with other Bain Capital employees. “When I was back in my private-sector days, we went to China to buy a factory there. It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married, and they work at these huge factories,” Romney said. The women lived “12 to a room” in a building surrounded by “a huge fence with barbed wire and guard towers.” Bain subsequently invested in the Chinese factory.
This wasn’t the version of Romney that people who couldn’t afford $50,000 per-plate fundraisers met on the campaign trail, Prouty thought. And after agonizing for weeks about the fate of his job and his coworkers, and retaliation by Romney supporters, he released portions of the video anonymously. The whole tale is too long to tell here, but last week Prouty stepped out of the shadows to explain why he did what he did.
“You shouldn’t have to pay $50,000 to hear what a candidate really thinks,” he told MSNBC host Ed Shultz. Amen to that, and thanks.