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(RNN) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has changed positions on his controversial comments that 47 percent of American voters do not pay taxes and feel entitled to a wide array of government benefits, saying that his words were "completely wrong."
Appearing on Fox News' Sean Hannity, the conservative pundit asked Romney how he would have responded if he was asked about the comments during the debate.
"Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you are going to say something that doesn't come out right," Romney answered. "In this case I said something that's just completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent. And that has been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent. When I become president it will be about helping the 100 percent."
The answer was a stark difference from what Romney said in the video, which was recorded with a hidden camera during a $50,000 a place fundraiser in Boca Raton, FL. In that video, Romney said he did not feel that it would be beneficial for his campaign to appeal to 47 percent of voters because they would not consider voting for a GOP ticket.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said in the video. "All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That, that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what."
Romney continued: "These are people who pay no income tax. 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect… 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."
After the video went viral, much attention was paid to who the "47 percent" represented. It was widely believed that Romney's numbers came from the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.
According to the Tax Policy Center, approximately 46 percent of Americans do not pay federal income taxes. Of that 46 percent, 44 percent are elderly and retired people who receive social security benefits, which are not taxed and 30 percent are credits for children and the working poor.
About 1.3 percent are people who do not pay income taxes on capital gains and dividends.
Shortly after the video was released, Romney held a press conference to address the comments. When a reporter asked if he wanted to take back the statements, Romney refused.
"It's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way" Romney said. "I was speaking off-the-cuff in response to a question and I'm sure I could state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that."
Romney went on to explain that his campaign message is "not attractive" to people who don't pay taxes because his focus is on lowering taxes, which they don't pay.
In the press conference, Romney also began a campaign theme he would continue, which is that his platform is about "the 100 percent."
The Romney campaign was also criticized when Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said during a speech that "30 percent of Americans want their welfare state."
Ryan's comments were made in November, 2011 - several months before he was picked to be Romney's running-mate.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, January 23 2013 11:50 AM EST2013-01-23 16:50:15 GMT
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