Earlier this week I broke the story of a Mitt Romney fundraiser in Florida in May where the Republican presidential nominee talked candidly about the 47 percent of Americans who he says won't vote for him because they are "dependent on government" and "believe that they are victims." The full video and transcript from the fundraiser are available here: http://mojo.ly/SZyUrX, video highlights are here: http://mojo.ly/SZyUrX.

Read the story, watch the video, and ask me anything.

Thanks everyone for participating, see you at www.motherjones.com!

Comments: 1260 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

FakeCurtisLeMay173 karma

You probably can't answer this, but I'd really like to know how you got the tape. Did someone pay $50,000 a plate for the opportunity to tape this just in case Romney said something dumb?

What's the legality of taping something like this? I know in certain states both parties have to consent to a taping of a conversation. Does that apply to a large event?

David_Corn192 karma

I cannot say much about the source of the tape and how s/he came to be in the room. But as far as I can ascertain, it wasn't an opposition hit job. The source realized that s/he would be in the room with a presidential candidate and thought that Romney might just say something interesting enough to deserve recording. Seems the source was right about that...As for the legality of what happened, I will leave that to experts on Florida law.

NichaelBluth158 karma

How can we promote more non-profit media sources such as Mother Jones?

David_Corn193 karma

You're doing that now by participating here. Word of mouth is a great way to do that for individuals. But also if you send us cash--by which I mean tax-deductible contributions in the form of checks--we can use those funds to beef up our promotional efforts to boost the magazine and the work we generate.

David_Corn156 karma

Oh, I should give the address for that, right. It's

Mother Jones 222 Sutter St. Suite 600 San Francisco, CA 94108

We may take electronic donations. I will check. Good question!

EvilPRGuy102 karma

Mother Jones is one of the few English language publications that still dedicates the time, money, resources and column inches to real on the ground, investigative, researched journalism. Is this type of writing definitely doomed and headed towards extinction because of monetary and technological factors? Is it a function of the audience for this type of journalism disappearing? Other then buying the publications that run this kind of work, is there any other way to support and encourage the return of "shoe leather" investigative reporting?

David_Corn72 karma

You're right. This is a concern. And we at Mother Jones--and other outlets--work hard to preserve this sort of kick-ass, independent, probing journalism. Really, the best way to support this is to read the work that is done, subscribe and donate. And, again, spread the word any way you can. Once more, here's how to donate or subscribe to MoJo: https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&list_source=7H10TOPNV&extra_don=1

1000pointsoflight23 karma

Yes. Was going to post along this line. What can be done to restore muckraking journalism in the traditions of Jack Anderson et al? We need it.

David_Corn34 karma

My pal Mark Feldstein wrote a great book that came out last year about Jack Anderson and Richard Nixon. Look it up and buy it. Fabulous read.

DirtyProjector101 karma

Why don't more journalists call out politicians on their bullshit? Most politicians flat out lie to the public, and no one holds them accountable. Is it a fear that they will be black listed?

David_Corn133 karma

Good question. This is something I've pondered and written about many a time. See




I think there's a lot of factors. Beat reporters often don't like to be too antagonistic toward their subjects, for this will affect their ability to get information from them. MSMers often feel it is not their place to render such judgements and believe it is their job to convey what the pols are saying and let the public reach its own conclusions. I disagree (what a surprise!) and believe the press needs to be aggressive in policing the pols and in calling out untruths. I'm heartened to see more of that in the MSM, via factchecking (see the first piece above), but this recent trend in the media has had its rocky moments.

Nomad4781 karma

Do you or anyone you might know have copies of ten years or less of Mitt Romney’s tax returns?

David_Corn117 karma

I could tell you, but then I'd have to....Just kidding. I assume his accountant does. Did John McCain hang on to the 23 years of returns Romney gave him in 2008? I don't know. I do know--or assume--that the tax return issue will become an inconvenient matter for Romney again, and soon. He has pledged to release his 2011 return in October. Which is reaaaallll soon. When he does, it will once again raise the knotty issue of...what about the ten years prior to 2010? I was just talking about this on the Diane Rehm Show (guest-hosted by Susan Page!), and we all sort of agreed this could be a problem and wondered why he didn't release the return earlier to avoid this potential dustup so late in the final stretch.

David_Corn74 karma

Word just came in that Romney is releasing his 2011 return this Friday afternoon. Of course, Friday afternoon. And will also release a summation of the tax rates he's paid the previous 20 years, but not the returns. Hmmm.

jwoodsutk71 karma

How do you feel about Fox News dismissing your ridiculously outdated 4-month old video and pushing their 14 year-old video of Obama?

David_Corn111 karma

I'm shocked, shocked.

cy99maddux69 karma

How long and how hard did you laugh when the Romney campaign said the video was "debunked" and "selectively edited"? Be honest, are you still laughing right now?

David_Corn83 karma

Well, they had to say something.....But it was odd that they made that claim after essentially confirming it was real when Romney declared his remarks "off the cuff." (Which seems to me to be one way of saying, "what I really mean.") Here's a further explanation I wrote of how Romney's debunking claim was debunked:


kodemage5 karma

Follow up question: What, if any, edits were done to the video. Obviously there's some blurring and it was cut into at least 2 pieces but aside from that was anything chopped out?

David_Corn25 karma

The video, as I've explained, came to me in two files. The source explained that s/he noticed, 35 minutes in, that the device was not recording. S/he figured that the device had timed out or been brushed in a manner that caused it to turn off. The source says that s/he quickly turned the device back on and estimates that one to two minutes, maybe less was not recorded. We have put up the entire files we were sent. Not a single thing has been edited or doctored. Still, rightwingers are cooking up conspiracy theories and claiming we've altered the tapes. Believe me, as much as anyone, I'd like to know what wasn't captured on the video. Perhaps Romney can tell us.

dtm9k67 karma

How did you authenticate the video when it was first presented to you?

Why was so much of the video blurred out in your initial release of it? I understand the need to protect your source, but does offering a heavily blurred video pose credibility issues in how it will be percieved

David_Corn84 karma

Good Qs....If you watch the full video, you can see Romney say things that indicate when and where it happened. And we looked quite closely to determine if we could see any evidence of manipulation or cutting. We saw none. That said, I figured there was a slight chance (<5%) that some Dr. Evil Master of the Editing Bay might have been able to concoct all this. But I spent time communicating with the source and becoming familiar with him/her to increase my level of confidence. Also, it seemed to me, if this was a diabolical plot, then the video would have already been disseminated in a more conventional manner of leaking.

We blurred initially because the source requested that. But we believed that enough was shown to indicate this was the real deal. Plus, I had confirmed when and where this happened and knew I could vouch for the authenticity. Sure, there was the chance that some would have taken issue with the blurring. But what can you do about that?

thingsyoutellyourcat59 karma

My first experience reading Mother Jones was in a bookstore. I began reading an article about a Dr. that used shock-type behavior modification on children. I was so amazed at the way the article was presented, I bought the magazine. I've been hooked ever since. Thank you!

David_Corn87 karma

That was a great article--a real good representation of the type of investigative reporting we aim to produce at Mother Jones. Here's a link to it: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2007/08/school-shock

crankyanddifficult53 karma

Given the recent controversy surrounding France's position on genetically modified crops, do you anticipate trouble for you, or other members of the Corn family, in getting a French visa?

David_Corn49 karma

We have discussed this and are considering filing a petition with the WTO.

The_Iceman228853 karma

Do you forsee any scenario in which Romney can win this election?

David_Corn125 karma

I remain convinced this is a close election. I wouldn't bet. And there's still a chance that the debates or external circumstances--say, a financial crisis or foreign policy emergency--could change the contours of the race.

Dizzy_Slip52 karma

What's your absolute strangest exchange/interview with a high-profile politico? Did you come to doubt the person's sanity?

David_Corn67 karma

That's an out-of-the-box question. A long time ago, I caught Colin Powell giving contradictory (and sworn) testimony in the Iran-contra case--that is, he made a false statement under oath--and I asked his spokesperson about this and received such a confusing and incomprehensible reply that it was practically unprintable. I think I had to note that this was not a typo.

hersheybar42251 karma

What is a typical day like for you?

David_Corn84 karma

Not like the past few.....I get up early, check email and Twitter to make sure there's no major news, get the kids to school, then head to the office, where I oversee a great DC bureau of 8 reporters and editors, as we do all we can to find scoops and post stories that explain and advance important stories. In between all that, I do various appearances on MSNBC. And last year, I also squeezed in reporting and writing for my book, SHOWDOWN, which, coincidentally, came out this week in paperback. (Feel free to check it out.) Oh, yes, there's making dinner, doing dishes, walking the dog, and, playing in a neighborhood band. Sleep? Hmmm, I've heard of sleep.

bickering_fool50 karma

Can I get your views on the Columbia University insistence this last week of a “planetary emergency” due to the unforeseen global consequences of Arctic ice melt.

David_Corn88 karma

We are fools to ignore this.

[deleted]48 karma

David, do you ever think of interrupting Chris? Ya know, just to turn the tables on him for once?

David_Corn89 karma

It's called Hardball with Chris Matthews.

mbritt7438 karma

How do you feel about partisanship in the media today? Do you feel like Mother Jones contributes neutral facts? Is old school, honest journalism lost?

David_Corn108 karma

For me, the issue is not bias in the media, but accuracy. Mother Jones does embody a set of values--the progressive tradition. But we are dedicated to accuracy. (Our factchecking process is really a pain-in-the-rear, believe me!) To me, that's the key.

Pragmaticus35 karma

David, you're on Hardball enough that you're practically Chris Matthews' co-host. Do you socialize together off the air?

David_Corn51 karma

Highballs at Morton's every evening.....Just kidding. After the show is done, we tend to hurry out to our respective homes to be with the families....I will say this: it's truly a treat to work with Chris--even when we disagree. He's high-energy and damn smart and cares about politics because he cares about the policy outcomes that are produced. It's a lot of fun to be part of the Hardball team.

beepos29 karma

Has there ever been a source whose story has been remarkable, but o=something you havent been able to publish because of credibility issues? If so, can you tell us the gist of it?

David_Corn63 karma

Once had a great story about a major oil company blackmailing a congressional committee chair. Believed the source. But couldn't nail it. Never ran it.

factoryofsadness27 karma

I agree with Mother Jones that one of the biggest problems facing our nation is economic inequality. How can the government realistically address economic inequality other than raising the minimum wage (which will result in a corresponding increase in prices) or begging the business sector to start paying workers fairly?

David_Corn29 karma

Minimum wage is a good place to start I think the tax code offers you opportunities. The Earned Income Tax Credit has helped in this regard. Investing in infrastructure and education can lead to boosts in employment that can address this matter.

uriman25 karma

Why do you think the source selected MJ rather than any other news outlet?

David_Corn28 karma

The source was familiar--or became familiar--with my earlier reporting on Romney and Bain's investments, particular in companies involved in outsourcing, and that, I was told, was one reason the source was willing to talk to me initially.

MentallyDeficient25 karma

How many garbanzo beans can you hold in your hands at once?

David_Corn50 karma


erikgrad24 karma

Has Mother Jones been keeping tabs on the story of the Romney tax "hacker" who claims to have walked into PwC, and easily made copies of his tax forms? They were claiming to potentially be releasing them next Friday if their ransom was not met. I have seen very little coverage of it beyond it's first mention in the news.

David_Corn24 karma

News to me. Maybe she or he can send them to Mother Jones.

GoWithItGirl24 karma

Does it really matter if the host of Romney's fundraiser throws sex parties? The headline "Romney '47 Percent' Fundraiser Host: Hedge Fund Manager Who Likes Sex Parties" struck me as cheap and sensationalist. (I know it's quite possible you did not write the headline.)

David_Corn69 karma

Sensationalist? I dunno. Struck me as interesting. My story, I will assume responsibility for the headline. If Romney is going to promote himself as a champion of conservative social values but then courts a millionaire who throws sex parties, I think there's a possible issue of hypocrisy.

gothmog111423 karma

Do you feel that Mitt's mormonism has a place in the discussion?

David_Corn51 karma

Interesting question. I'm of two minds. I do think, in a way, that voters should know the bedrock beliefs of a candidate who is seeking control of our nuclear arsenal and the destiny of our nation. But should we ask Romney if he literally believes the tale of the Book of Mormon? I don't know. But I'd be curious about that.

alphadoodledoo22 karma

Saw a pic of you taken by another journo at the airport following the DNC where you were noodling on an acoustic guitar. Think it was a Hummingbird if I recall. Can you really play or were you just trying to impress the ladies? If you can, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 (n00b) to 10 (Jeff Beck)?

David_Corn46 karma

Not my guitar, but I think you're right. (Is there any straight guy who learned how to play guitar who wasn't trying to impress the ladies?) Hard for me to assess my own skills. But I'd say there is much greater range than 1-10 for n00b to Beck. (I'm tempted to say, at least 11.)

red321red32122 karma

Is there anything about the leaked Romney fundraising video that the media did not tell us about that you can reveal to reddit?

David_Corn99 karma

During the brief gap, Romney said, "I buried Paul."

jbcorny22 karma

How has 'business as usual' changed at MJ in the past 2 weeks?

What kind of impact has the tape had on MJ web traffic and subscriptions?

David_Corn36 karma

We're still working on the next round of articles--but perhaps with a greater bounce in our step, after all the traffic and support that has poured in. Coincidentally, my book on the Obama White House: SHOWDOWN: The Inside Story of How Obama Battled the GOP To Set Up the 2012 Election, came out this week in paperback, and this has not been unhelpful in promoting that.

See here: http://www.amazon.com/Showdown-Inside-Story-Battled-Election/dp/006210800X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348247386&sr=8-1&keywords=David+COrn+Showdown+paperback

More self-promotion: you can follow me on twitter at @davidcorndc

IgnazSemmelweis22 karma

Mr. Corn,

I am a subscriber and fan of Mother Jones and wish I had discovered it years ago.

With that out of the way;

What are your feelings on how your organization was attacked after releasing the "47%" tapes, especially by pundits on FOX News?

Do you think that behavior like this is just a sign of the times, or an indication of larger issues?

Thank you and keep up the great work.

David_Corn43 karma

The great thing about this story, I keep saying, is that everyone is free to watch the video and reach their own conclusions, unfiltered. So the attacks really don't matter. They are predictable and inconsequential. Just ask Mitt Romney.

yunododat20 karma

I know y'all are getting attention for breaking this story, but I just wanted to thank the MoJo staff, (especially if you can pass this on to Mac McClellan [sic?]) for the only legitimate and powerful coverage regarding the BP oil spill.

My family still resides on the gulf coast, and their livelihoods, though not directly related to the ocean, were thrown into disarray. Without MoJo, I don't think they would have known the true impact.

That's all.

David_Corn16 karma

You got it. Mac is great.

seymour119 karma

Big fan here. Love your work. Congrats on the huge story. Most of my questions have already been asked so I'll just ask, how well do you know Rachel Maddow? Is she as awesome as she seems on TV?

David_Corn37 karma

She once invited me to go fishing, and I couldn't make it. But I really, really would like to go fishing with her.

treetop838816 karma

Why didn't you leak the entire tape at once?

David_Corn38 karma

I plead guilty to focusing on the portions that we deemed most newsworthy. When reporters report on a speech a pol gives, they usually do not put up the entire transcript or broadcast all of it; they zero in on what they find significant. That's what we did, and within 24 hours of the initial release, we put up all the video we had--and allowed other media outlets to go over this and report stories that we hadn't gotten to.That doesn't strike me as a bad process.

tundey_113 karma

Why did you release the video now? If you are as in the tank as Fox News says you are, why not wait and make it a true October surprise?

David_Corn27 karma

Well, I guess Fox News got that wrong. How shocking. I put this story out as soon as I could, after spending a great deal of time authenticating the tape and preparing the video clips to show full context.

splice_of_life10 karma

Mr Corn,

I just wanted to throw out there that I really think you've been doing some great reporting recently. Please, keep it up.

As for my question, I wonder if you could comment on the way people perceive the reporting of yourself or your colleagues. Do you ever find yourself or your work dismissed because of a perceived liberal bias? How do you think your work and audience would differ if you wrote for, say, the Weekly Standard?

David_Corn14 karma

Wow. Alternative reality time. I don't know. I do think that if you work for MJ or the Standard, some folks look at your work with some suspicion. But the work eventually speaks for itself, and a good story--that is confirmed and well-supported--that appears in an outlet with a political perspective can go rather far. Especially if it's video.

Big_Timber9 karma

With the success of this leak, will you consider leaking more private information in the future in the method of Wikileaks? Have you thought about helping anonymous whistleblowing against corporations and governments for the good of society?

David_Corn23 karma

My arms are wide open for any whistleblower with information that would enlighten the public about politicians or corporations. Please!

Prone18 karma

Mr. corn, thank you for your work, I always enjoy your commentary on MSNBC as well.

Do you think that with a 24 hour news cycle, there is less journalistic integrity amongst your peers and rival news organizations in order to put out more content?

David_Corn14 karma

Not necessarily less integrity, but I do think feeding the beast gets int he way of digging deeper or pursuing stories not already part of the media whirl.

sjorgs1228 karma

I'm a huge fan of Mother Jones and was stoked that you guys got the Romney video story first - really high quality journalism. I have a question as an aspiring investigative journalist: what are the pros/cons of working for a non-profit media outlet like Mother Jones? Also, any advice for me? I'm about to graduate college and, although I've had some great internships, would love some tips about how to differentiate myself from all the other wannabe journalist college grads.

David_Corn15 karma

Not too late to go to med school!.....Thanks for the kind words about MJ. In the past few years, I've seen more pros than cons in working for a nonprofit. We were able to weather some of the tough economic times by appealing to the generosity of our readers and supporters and received donations from them. That was not something the NY Times could do. It had to turn to a Mexican billionaire. (But I am glad that worked out.) As for advice, it's hard for me to know what to say. The media landscape is so different from when I started out in this business and Teddy Roosevelt was president. The best and only way to differentiate yourself is the quality of your work. Find an internship or job that will give you the opportunity to do something grand--or do it on your own time. I do believe in this biz quality does stand out--well, at least some of the time.

Chris_Hansen_Is_Here6 karma


David_Corn11 karma

Will sound like a cliche, but the same as on the air: ebullient, curious, fervent.

ItsMissToYou3 karma

How do you feel about journalistic purists who do not vote? Is it being unbiased or throwing away their civic duty? Has this notion become antiquated?

David_Corn6 karma

Yes, it has.

slashBored3 karma

Did you coordinate the release of the video with the Obama campaign? What made you decide that now is the best time to release it?

David_Corn6 karma

No. We put this video out as fast as we could authenticate it and prepare the video clips and articles. The Obama campaign did not know anything about this--as far as I know--until it was posted.