Scott Prouty revealed himself on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” Wednesday night as the man who shot a damaging video of Mitt Romney dismissing President Obama’s supporters during a closed-press fundraiser last year.
One of the most influential figures in the 2012 election, the bartender who secretly filmed Romney at a private fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., last May had been anonymous until now.
“I was behind this whole thing,” Prouty said.
The bartender said he brought a camera to the fundraiser in case Romney came back to take pictures with the staff, as former president Bill Clinton had done at another event Prouty worked. “I didn’t go there with a grudge against Romney,” he said. “I really had no idea he would say what he said.”
Prouty said he grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in Boston. He said he felt that people who couldn’t afford to attend a high-priced fundraiser should get a chance “to find out what the candidate actually thinks.”
He said he struggled for two weeks with whether or not to release the video and risk his own career. He worried about losing his job or getting sued; Florida laws prohibit the recording of anyone without their consent. He did not have health insurance. He also worried about hurting the company that employed him and paid him well. After wrestling with the decision, he decided it would be cowardly not to release the video: “I went down the path and never looked back.”
“The guy was running for the presidency, and these were his core beliefs,” he said. “And I think everybody can judge whether that’s appropriate or not or whether they believe the same way he does. I felt an obligation to expose the things he was saying.”
Romney’s comments on “47 percent” of Obama voters, whom he described as dependent on government handouts and unable to take responsibility, had a major — and negative – impact on Romney’s campaign. The former Massachusetts governor himself acknowledged in a recent interview that his words “did real damage.”
But it was Romney’s anecdote about going to China to potentially buy a factory that first piqued Prouty’s interest. He was bothered by the candidate’s description of barbed wire fencing and crowded dorm rooms.
“He just walked though this horrendous place and thought, ‘Hey, this is pretty good,’” Prouty said.
After the fundraiser, Prouty did some research and found a Mother Jones article by David Corn about Bain Capital’s investment in a Chinese manufacturing firm. He also got in touch with Charles Kernaghan, an international labor rights activist.
The service industry worker was also miffed by the way Romney addressed the staff at the event, asking as soon as he arrived for them to move things along. Prouty had actually tended bar at a previous Romney event and served the candidate a Diet Coke with lemon.
“He took it and turned and didn’t say anything,” Prouty told the Huffington Post. “He took it out of my hand and turned his back without a ‘thank you’ or anything else.”
Prouty posted the China clip in comment sections on news Web sites and liberal blogs. But without more context — and with the image distorted to mask details that might expose the videographer — the videos didn’t gain traction. Prouty decided that he wanted Corn to take the story national. He approached Corn through former president Jimmy Carter’s grandson, James Carter, who had been posting political clips to YouTube. On Sept. 17, Mother Jones posted the entire video.
Prouty said he did not reveal himself before the election because he did not want to draw attention away from the video itself: “I wanted Mitt Romney’s words, and Mitt Romney’s words only” to be the focus. Now, he said, he expects “to be torn apart by the right-wing media.”
If he earns some ire, Prouty is also getting some positive attention. The United Steelworkers are looking to hire him.
Now that Prouty has revealed himself, Corn has published his own account of the video’s release. He writes that after learning Prouty’s real name, he Googled his source and was relieved by what he learned: Prouty had once rescued a drowning woman from a car.
Prouty said he is a registered independent but tends to vote Democratic. He had no contact with the Obama campaign. Watching the second presidential debate, in which Obama invoked the “47 percent” video in his final statement, Prouty cheered.
“I was thrilled that he hit him with it when he did,” he said.
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