Things are often taken out of context in politics. But with the speed and easy ability to disseminate messages via Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, etc., the combination of taking something out of context and making it public can be disastrous.
Mitt Romney, his wife Ann, and his campaign have been on both sides of this issue: victim and perpetrator.
First, earlier today a brief 13 second clip began to circulate on the web in which Ann Romney said, “And, so, you know, we can be poor in spirit and I don’t… Look, I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing, it can be here today and gone tomorrow.” The video was posted by liberal institution Think Progress on YouTube, and at the time of this posting it is front and center on their homepage.
The Internet was immediately ablaze with people criticizing the “1% Romneys” for saying they were not rich. Here’s a couple examples:
— Pinth-Garnell (@pinth_garnell) March 5, 2012
@politicalwireat least $250 million? I heard that was at most. If you’re gonna try to mock people at least be accurate.
—Christine(@cmdeb) March 5, 2012
Does she consider herself “ridiculously wealthy,” then? RT @ZekeJMiller Ann Romney: “I Don’t Even Consider Myself Wealthy”
— Trey Pollard (@TreyPollard_SC) March 5, 2012
However, as fast as the Internet can send out misinformation, it can just as fast provide correctives.
Within hours of the initial video hitting the Internet, another, fuller length video surfaced showing that Ann was making a broader comment about her battle with Multiple Sclerosis and how she now measures riches by her friends and loved ones.
Clearly, the shorter video clip had not presented her words in their actual full context.
But even with this longer video circulating, the problem is that many may hear about Ann saying she isn’t rich and that may be all they hear. They may not hear about the context of the quote and it may damage their opinion of (or deepen this distain for) her and her husband.
This is not the first time the Romney campaign has had to deal with things being taken out of context. However, before they were the prey, they were the predator.
In the final weeks of the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama quoted the John McCain camp saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” The quote was not by Obama, but by McCain; Obama quoted them to make a point about the McCain campaign’s mindset.
In November the current Romney campaign ran an ad showcasing this Obama quote, and, through creative editing, attributed it to Obama, not McCain. Romney’s camp defended the ad, claiming that there was “no hidden effort” to mislead voters. Romney himself claimed the quote was used to show Obama that, “the same lines you used on John McCain are now going to be used on you, which is that this economy is going to be your albatross.”
Romney’s camp has claimed that “context is irrelevant” when it suits them. With Ann Romney’s words today, context is now highly relevant for them.