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For nearly two weeks, the Romney and Obama campaign have been arguing about whether President Barack Obama insulted entrepreneurs.
The argument started with comments Obama made about the intersection of business and government during a July 17, 2012 campaign appearance.
Romney, in comments at public events and in several ads, has argued that the remarks show a general disdain for business. The Republican National Committee and the National Federation of Independent Business are among the groups have released their own videos and statements echoing Romney that the president is out of touch.
In one fundraising e-mail, Matt Rhoades, Romney’s campaign manager, decried Obama’s "naïve view that government, and not the hard work, talent, and initiative of people, is the center of society and the economy." In another campaign e-mail, Amanda Henneberg, a Romney spokeswoman, said Obama had "denigrated Americans who built their own businesses."
The issue has become so big that the Obama campaign felt the need to address the issue head-on in a Web video titled "Tampered" that quoted media accounts saying the quote had been taken out of context.
Earlier, we looked at the full context of Obama’s statement. Here we will put a recent Romney claim about Obama’s comment to the Truth-O-Meter. To do this, we’ll look at the latest Romney web video in the seemingly endless back and forth.
Here's how the Romney campaign prefaced the video on its website:
"President Obama recently said: ‘If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.’
"Clearly, this President doesn't understand how our economy works.
"Mitt Romney understands that we have to celebrate people who start enterprises and employ other people rather than devalue them. Success is not the result of government, it is the result of hard-working people who take risks, create dreams, and build lives for themselves and for their families.
"Stand with Mitt today and stand up for Americans who work hard to build their businesses, their homes, their families and their communities."
In this item, we’ll rate the claim that Obama was saying success "is the result of government," not "hard-working people," when he said, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
In case you didn't catch it the first 5,000 times the snippet ran on cable, yes, those words were uttered by Obama.
But as you can see when you read the full text of his remarks, that quote distorts the meaning of Obama's claim. (Romney himself has been a victim of this kind of shenanigans, when opponents claimed he said he liked firing people.)
Here is the full context, from Obama's speech in Roanoke, Va.:
"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
"So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the G.I. Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together."
We believe, as do our friends at FactCheck.org and the Washington Post Fact Checker, that Romney has seriously distorted Obama’s comments.
Romney cherry-picked a quote that made it sound like Obama was dismissive of businesses when in fact he was making a point that success comes from the combination of "individual initiative" and the fact that "we do things together."
The biggest problem is that the Romney campaign has left out the lead-up to the statement -- that "if you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges."
These words indicate that Obama was referring to infrastructure and educational opportunities that were paid for by taxpayers through the government -- things that established a necessary foundation for making private businesses successful.
We think his meaning is clear -- that both business people and government play a role in the American enterprise system, not purely one or the other.
In speeches and videos, the Romney campaign has repeatedly distorted Obama's words. By plucking two sentences out of context, Romney twists the president's remarks and ignores their real meaning.
The preceding sentences make clear that Obama was talking about the importance of government-prov
Romney also conveniently ignores Obama's clear summary of his message, that "the point is ... that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."
By leaving out the "individual initiative" reference, Romney and his supporters have misled viewers and given a false impression. For that, we rate the claim False.
Mitt Romney, prefatory material for the web video "Introducing www.MittRomney.com/BuiltByUs," July 25, 2012
Barack Obama, remarks at a campaign event in Roanoke, Va., July 13, 2012
PolitiFact, "In context: Obama's ‘you didn't build that' comment," July 18, 2012
Mitt Romney, remarks at a campaign event in Irwin, Pa., July 17, 2012 (accessed via Nexis)
Barack Obama, "Tampered" (web video), July 23, 2012
Washington Post Fact Checker, "An unoriginal Obama quote, taken out of context," July 23, 2012
FactCheck.org, "‘You Didn’t Build That,’ Uncut and Unedited," July 23, 2012
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