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In context: Does Mitt Romney like firing people?

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson January 11, 2012

Republican primary frontrunner Mitt Romney set off a firestorm on Jan. 9, 2012, when he said, "I like being able to fire people."

Or, at least, when Romney said something along those lines.

Romney’s comments, made at the Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, fed into an existing narrative boosted by other candidates and pundits that focused on Romney’s record at Bain Capital. Supporters and critics sparred over the question of whether Bain, a private-equity firm, was a job creator or a corporate carnivore.

So the notion that Romney not only fired people while at Bain but enjoyed it was catnip for a media in full New Hampshire primary mode.

But while some commentators were careful to provide fuller context for Romney’s quote, not everyone did. So we will.

Romney was specifically talking about the ability to get rid of your health insurance provider when you aren’t satisfied with its services.

"I want individuals to have their own insurance," Romney said. "That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me a good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me."

So Romney wasn't referring to his work at Bain Capital -- or to the more general question of serving as a boss who has decided to fire employees of his company -- but rather the notion of switching service providers. He might as well have been talking about switching cellphone carriers or cable TV companies.

Romney himself said as much later in the day: "Things can always be taken out of context. And I understand that that`s what the Obama people will do. But, as you know, I was speaking about insurance companies and the need to be able to make a choice. And my comments entirely reflected that discussion, which is we should be able to choose the insurance company of our choice."

We’ve posted a Truth-O-Meter item on whether one of Romney’s primary opponents, Jon Huntsman, took Romney’s quote out of context when he attacked him later that afternoon.

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In context: Does Mitt Romney like firing people?