James Carter IV, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is the man behind the video that offered some of the most memorable moments in the 2012 presidential campaign. What Carter found were personal opinions Romney shared with donors who had paid $50,000 to attend a private fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida.
Romney famously told the donors at a private fundraiser in early 2012, “There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% 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… And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The Republican presidential candidate’s rant painted him as an elitist who saw the country as divided between “makers” and “takers,” and who identified with the makers. James Carter IV, a political opposition researcher by hobby, first discovered the footage during a routine Internet search. Carter stumbled onto a blurry clip posted on the YouTube channel “Anne Onymous.” After sending a message to the YouTube user for more details and subsequently sharing the video link on Twitter, Carter finally corresponded with the YouTube account holder who had posted the video.
Carter then convinced the source to share the rest of the video footage after recognizing its potential as a game-changer for the campaign. Then, Carter persuaded the source to allow Mother Jones’ David Corn to publicize the full video. A few days later, the video was released.
Last week, President Obama had the chance to thank James Carter. Former President Jimmy Carter told CNN last Thursday that while the president was visiting Atlanta to give an education speech, Georgia State Sen. Jason Carter pointed out to President Obama that his cousin had found the video.
“President Obama ran across the room, embraced him and thanked him profusely,” President Carter told CNN’s Piers Morgan. He added, “I don’t think he said ‘winning the election’ but thank you for helping me with the election. I don’t know exactly what the words were.”
James Carter IV recalled his meeting with Obama. “I was standing in lie for a handshake and a picture. There was a line of us. That was before an event that was in Decatur, Ga. And my cousin who’s a state senator in Georgia was in front of me in line and after his picture, he turned around and introduced me to Obama as the Carter grandchild who had found the 47% video. So then Obama said ‘Get over here’ and put his arm around me and thanked me several times for my support during the campaign. And then after all the pictures and stuff was done, thanked me again and went straight from that into ‘Now that we have a second term, we can work on getting these kids what they need.’ And it was at an event for his pre-K proposal.”
Carter concluded, “The reason why I do this is because I think democratic policies are better. So the fact that [Obama] tied it into a policy thing, I thought it was great.”
President Carter called his grandson’s finding “the pivotal moment” of the campaign and that Romney’s remarks were something that he “could not deny, and it stuck with him for the rest of the election.” Carter added that it was “a major factor, if not the major factor” in the 2012 presidential race.
Romney tried to explain the comments to Chris Wallace of FOX News on Sunday:
It was a very unfortunate statement that I made. It’s not what I meant. I didn’t express myself as I wished I would have. You know, when you speak in private, you don’t spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and—and it could come out wrong and be used. But, you know, I did. And it was very harmful. What I said is not what I believe. Obviously, my whole campaign—my whole life has been devoted to helping people, all of the people. I care about all the people of the country. But that hurt. There’s no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.
Continuing to protect the identity of the source of the video, James Carter attested to its merits as a consequential video. “I know that making the video and getting it out the way it did took a certain amount of guts and I think it takes incredible discipline to not want to come out and be famous,” he said. ”I don’t think anybody could have imagined the kind of attention that finally came to it but he–they were definitely trying to get it out there.”