The man who some argue changed the course of the 2012 presidential election by releasing a secretly recorded videotape that made “47 percent” a national catchphrase, has finally revealed his identity.
Scott Prouty, a 38-year-old college-educated bartender who was raised in the Boston area and now lives in Hollywood, admitted during a TV interview Wednesday that he was the one who videotaped then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last May during a fundraiser west of Boca Raton.
In the video, shot at the home of private equity manager Marc Leder, Romney told the $50,000-a-plate crowd that there are “47 percent” of Americans who “are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing. . . .”
The video first appeared in September and played up the image of Romney as being out of touch with working-class Americans. The “47 percent” reference went viral while the tape’s owner kept silent. Until now.
Prouty, a registered Democrat, said he didn’t make the secret recording of Romney as a political partisan.
During an appearance on The Ed Show on MSNBC, Prouty told host Ed Schultz that he thought it was important people heard Romney and knew what he was really thinking.
Prouty’s family supports the decision. “I pretty much agree with everything he said and did,” his father, Ken Prouty, told The Palm Beach Post on Thursday. “Mitt Romney made his bed, and he did this to himself by making those comments.”
Prouty said he had a camera at the event because he wanted to take pictures of Romney in case the former governor of Massachusetts took pictures with event staff.
“I didn’t go there with a grudge against Romney,” he said. “I really had no idea he would say what he said.”
Worried about being fired or getting sued, he said that he didn’t know what to do with the video for weeks.
He said he was turned off by a comment Romney made during the fund-raiser about a Chinese factory. He also didn’t like the aloof nature of Romney, who apparently told the staff to move things along when he arrived. Prouty also said he tended bar at another Romney event and the candidate didn’t thank him when he handed him 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.”
After the Boca fundraiser, Prouty said he found a Mother Jones article written by David Corn about an investment that Bain Capital, Romney’s old investment firm, made in a Chinese company. Prouty posted the China clip video on some news websites, but they didn’t draw much attention.
He then decided to release the “47 percent” video. He approached Corn through James Carter, former president Jimmy Carter’s grandson, who had been posting political videos to YouTube. Mother Jones posted the full Romney video on Sept. 17.
“The guy was running for the presidency, and these were his core beliefs,” Prouty told MSNBC. “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.”
After Romney lost the election, the candidate admitted that what he said during the fund-raiser “did real damage.”
Prouty was right in worrying about being sued: In Florida, it’s a felony to secretly intercept oral communication.
First amendment attorney Florence Snyder said the prosecution and defense would each have a solid argument.
Romney’s prominence or the fact that neither the event staff nor the guests were asked to leave their mobile devices at the door could play a factor in legal discussions.
“I don’t think anybody expected to be recorded without their knowledge and consent in that setting,” Snyder said.
On the other hand, should they have expected that much privacy in the first place?
“Is there an expectation of privacy in this era of paparazzi and the Kardashians and celebrities and everybody tweeting all the time?”
The bottom line, Snyder said: “Candidate, run your mouth at your own risk . . . We’re all packing; everybody’s a journalist now.”