Mitt Romney speaks to the press in Costa Mesa, California. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images)
by Catalina Camia (USATODAY) -- Mitt Romney's secretly taped comments that nearly half of President Obama's voters are "dependent on the government" and "pay no income tax" sparked swift and passionate reactions.
David Brooks of The New York Times titled his op-ed column today "Thurston Howell Romney," a reference to the wealthy character from the sitcom Gilligan's Island. Brooks writes:
Romney's comment is a country-club fantasy. It's what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.
Josh Barro, in a commentary for Bloomberg, called Romney's remarks "an utter disaster" for the GOP presidential nominee.
Romney stood by his comments last night, saying his message was "not elegantly stated."
"The president believes in what I've described as a government-centered society, where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of the individuals," Romney said in Orange County, Calif. "I happen to believe instead in a free enterprise, free individual society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world."
The magazine Mother Jones, which published the Romney video, posted another clip today in which the candidate says Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever in establishing peace."
According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, about 46% of Americans paid no income tax in 2011. However, nearly two-thirds of households that don't pay income tax pay payroll taxes. Of the people who don't pay income or payroll taxes, more than half are elderly. The center says more than one-third of those who don't pay income or payroll taxes have incomes of less than $20,000.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus defended Romney yesterday in an interview with CNN.
"The point of all of this is the size of the government is too big and if we don't do something about it we're going to really lose the very idea of America," Priebus said on CNN's The Situation Room.
Posts on Twitter about Romney generated 69,000 tweets and retweets in the 11 p.m. hour last night, about an hour after the GOP presidential nominee's hastily called news conference in California. By comparison, there were 19,000 tweets and retweets about Romney at 4 p.m., according to the analysis by Voter Tide, a social media analysis firm. Voter Tide says there were more than 400,000 tweets about Romney yesterday or four times the usual amount.
Obama's campaign immediately began fundraising off Romney's secretly taped comments, according to Politico and The New York Times. The fundraising e-mail came from Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager, who yesterday called Romney's comments "shocking."