Paul Ryan strongly defended Mitt Romney’s devotion to expanding opportunities for Americans Tuesday under tough questioning from a Virginia reporter. What he didn’t defend was anything resembling Romney’s actual remarks to donors in a leaked video.
Ryan was grilled by WAVY-TV10 ahead of an event Tuesday as to whether he stood by Romney’s statement that 47 percent of Americans considered themselves “victims” who depend on government.
“Yeah,” Ryan said. “The whole point he was trying to make was that we got to get people from lives of dependency and economic stagnation that’s occurred in the Obama administration because of his failed policies, back to lives of self-sufficiency.”
But that wasn’t the point Romney made that generated the uproar: He explicitly dismissed almost half of all Americans, whom he said “believe that they are victims” deserving of special treatment by the government.
“My job is is not to worry about those people,” Romney said in the fundraiser video. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Ryan insisted the substance of Romney’s remarks was valid.
“The point we’re trying to make — and he admitted it was an inarticulate way of delivering this — we don’t want to promote more government dependency, we want opportunity,” Ryan said.
The interviewer pressed again: “47 percent are ‘victims.’ I mean, do you stand by that statement?”
Ryan replied that Romney’s point was that “the way you get those 47 percent of Americans who are not income taxpayers to become taxpayers is to create jobs.”
He said he did not plan to apologize on Romney’s behalf for the remark, even after the interviewer noted that his upcoming event would likely be attended by many seniors, students and other groups heavily represented in the 47 percent.
“No,” Ryan said. “We want to talk to people about growth, we want to talk to people about opportunity.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.