How Romney's '47 percent' video made its way to mainstream media, as more videos surface

Mother Jones | BuzzFeed | New York

Monday night Mitt Romney called for the release of the full video of him speaking at a donor's house. Monday afternoon Mother Jones reporter David Corn had released the instantly famous "47 percent" video in which the GOP nominee said of the president's supporters, "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government ... my job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Ben Smith described it as "unexploded digital ordnance" that "erupted under Romney's campaign."

Early Tuesday morning Mother Jones released another video, this one with Romney speaking about Israel and asserting that Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever in establishing peace." Initially, Mother Jones blurred faces in the video. It's since unblurred them and reported the clips were recorded at the home of Florida financier Marc Leder this past May.

Smith put together a tick-tock of how the videos oozed across the Internet, a process he writes "offers a glimpse at the workings of the contemporary media:"

Chaotically driven by an anonymous leaker; empowered by ubiquitous recording devices; and competing not just with other media outlets, but with the source him or herself.

The leaker started releasing videos on his own and linking to them from The Huffington Post in June. Later, he talked with The Huffington Post and video researcher James Carter IV. Monday, Huffington Post D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim tells Smith, the leaker said he was giving the video to David Corn because he liked Corn's reporting on a Bain Capital-affiliated company called Global-Tech.

Carter, who is President Jimmy Carter's grandson, connected the leaker with Corn. He tells Joe Coscarelli he:

put the anonymous video source in touch with the Mother Jones reporter and then butted out, knowing he was onto something. "Any time that you can find a clip that strengthens the narrative already established, that's what becomes a big deal."

How big? Well, Obama's "bitter" moment from 2008 still comes up a little bit, as does his hot-mic goof with Dmitry Medvedev. And since this video was released on Occupy Wall Street's anniversary, the new "47 percent" meme has cross-bred with that group's "99 percent" formulation.

The nation's fact-checking industry is now combing through Romney's remarks on the videos.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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