What Jeb Bush Says vs. What He Says He Means

PHOTO: Former Florida Governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, N.H., April 17, 2015. PlayBrian Snyder/Reuters
WATCH Jeb Bush In Response to Gun Violence: ‘Stuff Happens’

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has made several statements that have landed him in hot water since he entered the race.

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This, of course, comes with the territory, especially when one tweet is all it takes to catapult a gaffe or slip of the tongue into an out-of-context behemoth that looms over a candidate's head for months.

It seems, however, that Bush has had more than the other candidates of these inelegant instances, where a great distance exists between what he said, what the public heard, and what he says he actually meant.

Let's explore five examples, starting with the most recent.

1. '...Stuff Happens'

What He Said:

While participating in a constitutional conversation in Greenville, South Carolina, on Friday, the topic turned towards Second Amendment rights and mass tragedies. The massacre in Oregon was referenced and the conversation then turned to the broader issue of tragedies and prayer.

"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to connect ourselves with everybody else. It's just, it's -- it's very sad to see, but I resist the notion, I did -- I had this challenge as governor because we had -- look stuff happens. There’s always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."

The Reaction:

One tweet was sent out, then the progressive-leaning group American Bridge sent out a clip of his comments, and media and voters alike started weighing in. Twitter was aflame with reactions from both sides: Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz weighed in, and ABC News' Jonathan Karl asked President Obama about the comment, to which the president replied: "I don't even think I have to react to that one. I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments based on the fact that every couple of months we have a mass shooting. And they can decide whether they consider that 'stuff happening.'"

The Bush camp and others on the conservative side decried the outcry as "sad and craven" and accused liberals and the media of taking his comments out of context in an attempt to politicize the issue.

What He Says He Meant:

Directly after the event, ABC News and other reporters sought to clarify his comments. One reporter asked if his comments were a mistake. "No it wasn’t a mistake, I said exactly what I said, why would you--- explain to me what I said wrong," Bush said, adding, "Tragedies, a child drowns in a pool, and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools, it may not change it."

ABC News also asked him about his comments. Bush said that his comments were not related to the Oregon shooting and that he was broadly referring to tragedies.

"Let's make sure that we don't allow this to get out of control," he said. "There are all sorts of things that happen in life, tragedies unfold."

2. 'Free Stuff'

What He Said:

While speaking at an event in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, last week, Bush was asked by a voter how he would set out to attract African American voters. Bush, after citing his efforts to meet with Black ministers, set out to make the point that the Republican party could, indeed, attract black voters, a voting block that has historically leaned Democratic.

"We should make that case because our message is one of hope and aspiration, It isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting -- that says you can achieve earned success. We're on your side, things can get better," Bush said.

The Reaction:

American Bridge sent out a video with the comments, accusing Bush of making the same mistake of insensitivity and racial polarization that Mitt Romney made back in 2012 when he said, "your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy -- more free stuff."

Singer John Legend tweeted, a hashtag started on twitter, and a controversy brewed, some critics arguing that Bush's comments portrayed African-Americans as handout-dependent or failed to recognize the societal constructs that systematically lead to high poverty rates for African-Americans. Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson spoke about it with Larry Wilmore on the Nightly Show.

"What we’ve seen from the Republicans is that they haven't talked about race beyond immigration, that there's, like, literally no language there yet," Mckesson said. "They, like, sort of start history where they want it to, in a way that erases all the people that pay with their lives. Nothing has been free. I think that all the people who died, who were the enslaved and everybody else, wouldn't say that any of this would be free."

What He Says He Meant:

Bush has long said that his message is aspirational, that his policies would lead to growth for all people, voters of color included. His views have long stated that low-income families don't want to be stuck in poverty and that solutions should be designed to raise them out.

"People don't want free stuff," he told Fox News. "We spend a trillion on poverty programs, and that result is the percentage of people in poverty has remained the same. We should try something different, which is to give people the capacity to achieve earned success, fix our schools, fix our economy, lessen the crime rates in the big urban areas."

3. 'We Should Not Have a Multicultural Society'

What He Said:

After remarks at a diner in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Bush was speaking with a young woman who asked him how the federal government should better incorporate refugees.

"We should not have a multicultural society. We ought to have- America as a nation is so much better than the other countries because it's a set of values that people share that defines our national identity not race or ethnicity or where you come from."

The Reaction:

Hillary Clinton released a video, "GOP Candidates on Multiculturalism," that cuts together Bush's comments with an earlier Bush comment linking the term "anchor babies" to Asian-Americans. The video features controversial comments from other Republican candidates, including Donald Trump and Ben Carson, while "America the Beautiful" plays in the background.

It stirred up conversations that Bush was unappreciative of the many cultures in this country, questioning how he could make such comments, especially with a culturally and racially mixed family. (His wife, Columba, is Mexican born). To many, it seemed as though Bush was saying that unique cultural differences should be stripped and forgotten upon coming to America.

What He Says He Meant:

Bush said he was referring to multiculturalism in its most literal sense -- a phenomenon that refers to the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a larger society. His campaign says he was speaking out against the debate between multiculturalism vs. assimilation. He says he was advocating for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed, to unite under America and the set of shared values its people have, rather than remaining isolated in distinct cultural pockets.

He has long advocated for assimilation into the larger society, writing about it in his 1994 book, "Profiles in Character."

4. 'People Need to Work Longer Hours'

What He Said:

During an interview with New Hampshire's Union Leader, Bush was commenting on how to grow the economy and said this:

"My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families."

The Reaction:

That quote seems to imply that the already over-worked American workforce should work even more. This time, the DNC pounced, releasing a statement that called Bush's remarks "easily one of the most out-of-touch comments we’ve heard so far this cycle," adding that Bush would not fight for the middle class as president.

What He Says He Meant:

Almost immediately, the Bush campaign fired back, releasing a statement that Bush was referring to the underemployed, those working part-time jobs that would rather be full-time.

"Under President Obama, we have the lowest workforce participation rate since 1977, and too many Americans are falling behind. Only Washington Democrats could be out-of-touch enough to criticize giving more Americans the ability to work, earn a paycheck, and make ends meet," the statement read.

5. Anchor Babies 'More Related to Asian People'

What He Said:

Bush came under fire in McAllen, Texas, for his repeated usage of the term anchor babies to refer to the American-born children of illegal immigrants. After being asked repeatedly by both Spanish and English media about it, he said this:

"What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there's organized efforts -- and frankly it's more related to Asian people -- coming into our country, and having children, in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship."

The Reaction:

Needless to say, these comments were seized by partisan and Asian-American groups. The DNC pounced, Hillary Clinton pounced, and the National Council of Asian-Pacific Americans also released a statement condemning "the use of the derogatory term 'anchor babies.'"

What He Says He Meant:

Bush and his spokeswoman both said he was referring to the birth tourism industry, in which women travel to the United States with the explicit purpose of obtaining citizenship for their child. There are companies created just for facilitating this purpose. Many news organizations, including this one, have reported on it.