The Lesson of Mitt Romney's 47-Percent Video: Be Nice to the Wait Staff?
Mitt Romney may have lost the presidency because he offended a bartender.
In his public debut on MSNBC's "The Ed Show," bartender Scott Prouty revealed that he filmed the famous " 47 percent" video of Mitt Romney at a closed-door fundraiser in May 2012 and leaked it to Mother Jones magazine's David Corn, who posted it in September. It was a move, Prouty said, intended to capture the most attention possible.
Until now, Prouty's identity has been hidden. It's been known that president Jimmy Carter's grandson, James, facilitated the story, putting the unidentified, surreptitious filmer in contact with Corn. It's now know that Prouty contacted Carter after seeing Carter's contributing byline on a Corn story about GlobalTech, the Chinese appliance manufacturer Romney mentioned at the fundraiser.
Prouty explained why he leaked the video.
"The people that were there [at the fundraiser], they paid $50,000 per person for dinner," Prouty told MSNBC's Ed Schultz in an exclusive interview.
"You know, I grew up in a blue-collar area in Boston, and nobody I know can afford to pay $50,000 for dinner," Prouty said. "I just don't know anybody that can do that and, in a way, I just felt like, if you're a Republican or a Democrat, there's a lot of people that can't afford to pay $50,000 for one night, one dinner, and I felt an obligation for all the people who can't afford to be there."
Prouty, who worked on the catering staff at the Romney fundraiser, said he didn't originally intend to leak the video when he began recording it.
"I had brought the camera, and a lot of other people brought cameras thinking that people would take pictures, like he did in the past, coming back with the staff and taking pictures," Prouty said. "I was interested to hear what he had to say, but I didn't go there with a grudge against Romney."
But when Romney made his now-infamous "47 percent" remark, Prouty said, that's when he made sure his camera was capturing it because he wanted everyone to hear Romney's words, unvarnished.
Romney told donors that 47 percent of voters would chose Obama "no matter what" because they are people "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. … These are people who pay no income tax.
"My job is not to worry about those people," Romney said. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Prouty, who described himself as a bartender who lives a comfortable life but struggles like everyone else, said the decision to leak the recording was daunting.
"Why am I gonna do this, why am I gonna risk everything? Should I risk everything, should I put myself in jeopardy, should I put myself in legal jeopardy?" Prouty said he asked himself before handing the video over to Corn.
But he wanted voters - particularly middle-class voters like himself - to hear Romney's private words and judge for themselves, Prouty told Schultz.
"Everybody needed to hear that," he said.
Prouty also related one anecdote that suggested maybe, just maybe, Romney's presidential downfall was brought on by a joke about table service. Just about anyone who's ever waited tables believes - strongly - that people who are rude to servers deserve their comeuppance. Especially rich people.
Schultz played a clip of Romney joking, apparently in good nature, about how he wasn't kidding that the food should be brought out quickly.
"I guess everybody here is a dignitary, and I appreciate your help. And, by the way, I am serious about the food. Bring that - no, no," Romney says, momentarily inaudible on Prouty's recording. "Clear the places. But Hillary has to eat her beets."
Prouty, it seems, didn't like that one bit.
"He'd only been in the room for maybe a minute or two," Prouty said. "I think it was telling for me. He basically had just walked into a dinner party, he was the guest of honor, and he demanded that the service be sped up. He had literally just walked in the door.
"I thought that was remarkable. Anybody who walked into a dinner party - it doesn't matter who you are - I can't imagine demanding to be fed faster, to be served faster," Prouty said.
"It wasn't like we were behind schedule, and I just think that says a lot about who he is, to walk into any person's house and to demand, 'Speed it up, speed it up. Bring it, bring it,'" Prouty said.
In the clip, it was not clear that Romney was demanding service as rudely as Prouty described. Nevertheless, Prouty's comments suggested Romney's seemingly affable wait staff badgering may have set Prouty off even before any of those fateful comments about tax liability and "victims."
Perhaps candidates should be more careful about what they say around servers, because sometimes the 47 percent is bringing out the food.