Ann Romney on wealth: What did she really mean?

at 09:58 AM ET, 03/06/2012

Ann Romney, the wife of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, set off a mini-firestorm on Monday when she appeared to make a gaffe regarding her wealth.


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann speak at a campaign rally at Gregory Industries in Canton, Ohio, Monday, March 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
“I don’t even consider myself wealthy,” Ann Romney said in an interview with Fox News on Monday. The remark was immediately chopped into a handy, dandy You Tube clip by Think Progress, a liberal blog affiliated with the Center for American Progress.

Many reporters — including this one — tweeted the quote with the accompanying Think Progress link. The Associated Press penned a story headlined: “Husband worth up to $250M, Mitt Romney’s wife says ‘I don’t even consider myself wealthy’”.

But, a look at the entirety of what Ann Romney said raises questions about whether she committed an actual gaffe or was in fact the victim of a bit of selective editing/purposeful misunderstanding on the part of Think Progress.

Here’s Ann Romney’s full quote:

“[O]ne thing this disease has been for me has been a wonderful teacher. And with that comes an ability for compassion for others that are suffering. And for me, I want to make my family bigger. Those that are suffering from M.S. or cancer or any disease I feel like I want to throw my arms open and say, welcome to my family and welcome to the place where I’ve been and, so, you know, we can be poor in spirit and I don’t look — I don’t even consider myself wealthy which is am interesting thing. It can be here today and gone tomorrow, and how I measure riches is by the friends I have and the loved ones I have and the people I care about in my life and that is where my values are and those are my riches so for me having done through a difficult period in my life both with M.S. and with breast cancer it has done something to my heart and it’s softened my heart and made me realize there are many people suffering in this country and they are suffering from things that aren’t financial — and some people are suffering from things that are financial, as well — but those that are suffering, for me, I just have a larger capacity for love, and for understanding.”

On the one hand, she does say the following words: “I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing.”

But, context matters. And the broader context in which Ann Romney is speaking is how her fights against multiple sclerosis and cancer have made her realize that wealth as defined by society in dollars is a poor measure for actual wealth.

Our read on this is that is you are unfavorably inclined to the Romney family and/or agitated by Mitt Romney’s genuine gaffes about his wealth — hello $10,000 bet! — then you will hear the Ann Romney comments as the latest in a series of examples about how out of touch they are.

But, viewed in the full context of her longer remarks, it seems that most reasonable minded people could agree that Ann Romney’s comments don’t amount to a real gaffe.

Would she have been better off not saying the words “I don’t even consider myself wealthy” given the ongoing storyline about her family’s wealth? Absolutely. Still, her intent was clear. She was speaking about spiritual wealth as greater than material wealth.

Given that, this seems like much ado about not all that much.

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