It has been less than 24 hours since Mother Jones magazine released the video of Mitt Romney disparaging half the electorate as government-dependent freeloaders, and many pundits are already suggesting that Romney may not be able to recover from it, and they may well be right.
But, as Rachel Maddow reported last night, the national media has been aware of the video for weeks and even months. Excerpts were first posted anonymously on YouTube as long ago as May, not long after the fundraiser took place. They were also posted by someone using a couple different YouTube accounts in late August, around the time of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. If the media elite have known about this potentially devastating, game-changing video for three weeks and longer, then it’s a sure bet that both the Romney and Obama campaigns have known about it that long, too.
This is interesting because it means that the campaigns have known about it for at least three weeks, giving both teams ample time to absorb the news and develop strategies for the video’s eventual release.
If the Romney campaign learned about the video around the time of the Republican convention, it may help explain their missteps in the last month: the listless convention, the fumbling on Romney’s acceptance speech, his faltering on the uprisings in Egypt as well as the sudden public eruption of infighting and blamestorming by the staff in the New York Times and Politico — that sort of backbiting doesn’t usually go public until the end is near.
Viewed in hindsight, just about everything the campaign has done this month has an air of desperation about it.
Here’s a transcript of an excerpt from Rachel Maddow’s report on when the video first surfaced — picks up at around 01:14 on the video above:
RACHEL MADDOW: Late last month, somebody — we don’t know who — posted a clip of Mr. Romney talking that appears to come from the same speech in the same place from the same back-behind-the-crowd vantage point as the footage published today by David Corn at Mother Jones Magazine. It looks the same with the salient difference that the clip posted last month did not have the visual filtering on it that was added today by Mother Jones. It also did not appear to be of the same resolution over all.
In the clip posted last month, Mr. Romney talks about going to China to maybe buy an appliance factory there with his firm Bain Capital. He talks touring the factory where young women worked for what he described as “a pittance.” He says they lived in dormitories with bunks that were three beds high.
In the clip, Mr. Romney says the factory had a big barbed wire fence around it and guard towers to keep people out — not to keep people in, but to keep people out because so many people wanted to work there. Then he says that 95 percent of life is settled if you’re born in America.
That clip was posted to YouTube last month by an account that had the name Rachel Maddow on it. Somebody made it look as if I had posted that video to YouTube. I had not done that. We notified YouTube that somebody was pretending to be me with this account, and The account was taken down.
In terms of somebody impersonating me, that was easy. We knew it was not me. In terms of the content, though, we were not able to authenticate anything about the origin of the video at that time. That was what happened in late August. A few days after all of that happened, a different YouTube account went up — a YouTube account with a different name posted ten different excerpts of Governor Romney’s speech at what appeared to be this fundraiser.
So that’s twice it gets posted in August, and, it turns out, that back in May, another YouTube account had posted even more excerpts from what also seemed to be the same speech including that original clip that I just described about the Chinese factory.
But even though all those videos were posted on the web, weeks, if not months ago, the story went nowhere. The quality of the video was really poor. You couldn’t see if it was Mitt Romney or not. And nobody could verify the source of legitimacy of the tape. And so nothing happened, even though this was technically out there in the bowels of YouTube. Nothing happened with it until now.