What we know about Romney's covert '47 percent' videographer
It's one of the few remaining mysteries from the amply-covered 2012 presidential race: Who secretly filmed the video, at a May 2012 Boca Raton fundraiser, capturing Mitt Romney's infamous comments writing off 47 percent of Americans as government-dependent moochers with victim complexes?
Mother Jones' David Corn, who dropped the video into the campaign in September, hasn't publicly identified the videographer. James Carter, the grandson of Jimmy Carter and the man who coaxed the secret videographer to meet with Corn, has only said that the man wasn't one of the donors at the $50,000-a-plate dinner. Now, with Romney back in the news before his big speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, America's most famous amateur political videographer is outing himself, on MSNBC's The Ed Show. (Watch Ed Schultz preview the interview below.)
The still-faceless man also gave an interview to The Huffington Post. Here's what we know so far about Romney's anonymous nemesis:
1. He was the bartender
Many people suspected that the speech was recorded by the bartender, and they were right. The man "tended bar for a company that catered to a high-end clientele," say Ryan Grim and Jason Cherkis at The Huffington Post. And his original act — filming Romney's speech — wasn't as subversive as it might appear at first blush. Romney had "told his dinner guests that the event was off the record, but never bothered to repeat the admonition to the people working there," according to the bartender.
2. He brought his camera because of Bill Clinton
"Bill Clinton won the presidential election for Barack Obama," say The Huffington Post's Grim and Cherkis. The former president stumped for the current one, but perhaps Clinton's biggest gift is that he "inspired" the bartender to bring his camera to the Romney event, and then to release the "game-changing 47 percent comments." Before the Romney gig, the man tended bar at a private fundraiser featuring Clinton. And after the former president spoke, Clinton took the time to go back to the kitchen and schmooze with the staff, including posing for photos with bussers and waiters. That's why the bartender brought his Canon camera to the Romney event — the chance for a photo-op — and Romney's rushing out after his speech contrasted poorly with Clinton's glad-handing the hired help.
3. He didn't have health insurance, or much else
Part-time bartending is not, as you can imagine, a lucrative living, and he was living "paycheck to paycheck," say Cherkis and Grim.
He was renting an apartment. He said he didn't own car. He didn't have a savings account. He didn't have health insurance. "I don't have close family that I could rely on for support," he explained. "I either pay my bills or I'm homeless." [Huffington Post]
4. The host, and half the guests, knew who taped Romney
After he decided to hand the video over to Mother Jones, the bartender quit his job. "I knew I was forfeiting the right to work there," he tells The Huffington Post. Through the mom-and-pop catering company, he had tended bar for about half the guests at the Romney event, he said, and everybody in the room probably knew he was the one who'd filmed the event. "I was the only person in that specific spot," he added. "There was no real doubt. I could say that they know. My employers knew and the people I worked with knew that I did it."
5. He didn't plan on releasing the video
Not wanting to hurt his employers is one of the reasons he thought long and hard about whether to release the video. "I felt like I was letting down my employer," he told The Huffington Post. "I didn't want to hurt their business." He also says he wasn't too exited about shaking up his own life. So he slept — or didn't sleep — on it a lot before going public:
I'm just one of those people that if something's bothering me I wake up at four in the morning — just thinking. And it was literally weeks of just, you know, 'Well, hey don't lose your job, just let it sit there.' And, 'Times are tight, jobs are tough and, you know, don't rock the boat, you're happy doing what you're doing and you're about to go into the busy season of work....' But then... I would wake up and just, it was just that thing that's in your mind that you just can't get out of your mind, you know? [Huffington Post]
In fact, when he placed his Canon camera on the bar and hit record, he hadn't been planning on doing anything but recording a little bit of presidential minutia for his virtual scrapbook. Then he heard the dismissive comments about the 47 percent. "In the end I really felt like it had to be put out," he tells MSNBC's Ed Schultz. "I felt I owed it to the people that couldn't afford to be there themselves to hear what he really thought."