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Thursday, September 29, 2016

History sometimes has a way of tying itself up with a little bow. That’s the way I felt in January when I introduced Scott Prouty, the bartender-turned-videographer who helped sink Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, to Teddy Goff, the 28-year-old director of digital media for President Barack Obama’s re-election.

Prouty was a new source. After scratching at the story for weeks as part of research for a new book, I had convinced him to meet me in Washington in January. I wanted him to tell me everything he could about recording Romney at the now-famous Boca Raton fundraiser where the Republican candidate said that 47 percent of Americans were “victims” who wouldn’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” David Corn of Mother Jones broke the original story; I wanted the back story.

Goff is the kind of young campaign worker whose competence and dedication caused the president to shed tears at his Chicago headquarters the day after the election. The aide had cracked the code on Internet fundraising, helping take the Obama campaign from $15 million a month in online donations in the spring to more than $150 million a month in the fall, with an average donation of just $65.

The night after our first meeting, I ran into Prouty and his girlfriend at an inaugural ball. I asked if he wanted to meet someone from the Obama campaign. He had been given tickets to the inauguration and the ball by friends at the United Steelworkers of America; he had never met or even corresponded with anyone from the campaign or the White House.

Prouty said he wanted to say hello — he had become an Obama fan — but asked that I not reveal his name or that he was the bartender who shot the images in Boca Raton. He was still uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a public figure and worried that his old friends at the Florida catering company where he worked would suffer repercussions.

Goff and his family were floored when they met Prouty, and they promised to keep their mouths shut. Goff’s mother gushed, “You changed the campaign! You changed history!”

Indeed, he did. We’ll never know for sure whether the president would have been re-elected without the footage, which crystallized perceptions of Romney as callous and unconcerned about almost half of the people he sought to lead. Obama was already ahead in battleground states before the feeding frenzy over the video and had a much better digital strategy and field organization.

But a fortnight later, the president lost the first debate to Romney. It could be argued that he needed the cushion of the 47 percent imbroglio (and a good answer about it at the end of the second debate) to regain momentum.

To me, this unanswerable question was less compelling than finding out Prouty’s motivation and how he fit into the “makers versus takers” theme of the campaign. As I researched his past, he seemed to be who he said he was: a blue-collar guy from Quincy, Massachusetts, whose life experiences equipped him with unusual empathy.

Prouty, who looked as if he was straight out of the white, middle-aged male demographic that voted overwhelmingly for Romney, described himself as a registered Independent. Except for attending one demonstration against the Iraq war, he hadn’t been politically active, and his actions weren’t driven by a grudge against Romney. He did put a big memory card in his Canon camera before working the bar at the Boca Raton event, convinced he might hear something different from what he saw on television.

  • idamag

    I watched the interview with Prouty on television. I came away with the impression that there were several cameras and several people taking pictures of a person who could possibly become the president of the United States. Prouty, himself, was only taking pictures for a memento. Did his pictures have an impact on the election? I think they did. The Democrats lucked out with Newt Gingrich’s “vulture capitalism” statement. They dug deeper and found stuff to back that up with. Prouty’s pictures reinforced the idea that Romney was a vulture capitalist.

  • What he did was terrific. He did what a lot of reporters in the mainstream media need to be doing—getting at the truth. I was impressed with Ed Schultz’s interview.

  • Mark Forsyth

    They should give the guy a public service award.

  • The Conservatives may applaud when Cheney, Romney, Ryan, or many of the other extremists on the political right speak, but this man is a “REAL AMERICAN HERO.”

  • latebloomingrandma

    Anyone know how Fox is covering this? How can the right weasel out of this?

  • charleo1

    Did the secretly recorded speech of Romney at a $50,000 dollar a plate reveal
    anything about the man, Progressives didn’t already know, or at least suspect?
    No. It was the coming down of the facade, so carefully constructed to conceal
    the true feelings of the monied elite, towards the less well off, in the GOP, that
    was the most damaging. Those that angrily scoffed at the Liberals, who insist
    their support of Republicans and Republican policies, were not in their own best interests. That they were being cleverly played. Were now suddenly confronted
    with the conformation that indeed, the people most lionized by the Right, the
    makers, the industrious, the creators of all wealth, were talking about them behind
    their backs, as they say, as if they were dogs.

  • He did the job Fox news thinks it is doing, exposing the truth. Not a bad vocation for the rest of his life. What a guy!!

  • gloriay

    This man not only saved the country, but he saved the world and should be recognized for it. We are proud of him. Hopes he succeeds in whatever he does.

  • JDavidS

    This is the guy who sank Mitt the Twits’ campaign, or at the very least, helped… We owe him our thanks.

  • 1bythebrooks2

    What a down-to-earth great guy! I wish you well in whatever endeaver(s) you choose!

  • Romney was even attacking China….coward and crook loser.

  • stcroixcarp

    I thank Prouty for his courage. He is a “real” American. The most disturbing part of the video I had never seen before. Romney was describing his visit to a factory in China that he had used to replace an American factory that Bain Capital had shuttered. What Romney described was forced slave labor. Young female workers lived in dorms with bunk beds stacked three high, small bathrooms at the end of the rooms and high fences with razor wire on top. He thought that was good for business. What failure as a human being.. I’m thankful that he isn’t president.

    • Thanks for another story about how nasty Mitt Romney really is. I hadn’t heard about that one and will add it to my collection. Let me add one of my favorite Mitt nasty stories for you, which you may or may not be aware of:
      Are you aware that during the auto bailouts, when the auto industry and all its related companies were really struggling, and Mitt had said GM and Chrysler should be left to go bankrupt, that Mitt and some of his cronies (although he was supposedly officially no longer with Bain), actually conived to leverage buy-out the auto industry’s primary small parts manufacturer, Delphi, strip it of it’s assets and pension monies and ship all it’s 25,000 jobs to China (leaving 25,000 Americans without jobs and thousands of them with no pension monies)? But that in itself wasn’t bad enough for Mitt, he and his cronies tried to actually force GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy as they were trying to get started manufacturing cars again, by refusing to furnish them with the small parts they needed to finish making cars. Fortunately, the judge overseeing the leverage-buyout squashed their attempt by insisting that Delphi had to honor its commitment to GM and Chrysler or he would not approve the buyout.
      And what’s even more telling, is that even while campaigning for president, while he was trumping the lie that he had a plan to create 12 million American jobs in 4 years (which was proven before the election to be fabrication), Mitt was all the while still involved in deals of buying out companies that were floundering during the downturn and shipping their jobs overseas leaving thousands of Americans without jobs. Mitt and his cronies in the corporate pirating business, were one of the reasons Obama had a hard time of creating more new jobs to replace the jobs that the corporate pirates were destroying and shipping overseas. Mitt is by far a greater American job destroyer, than he ever was an American job creater. And if you buy a new car and have trouble with some of the small parts that are made mostly now in Mexico and China – you know one the key people to blame – Mitt Romney.

  • m8lsem

    A quiet, conscientious, hard-working, (I’m sorry to say) extraordinary American. Akin to the soldier who simply doing his duty accomplishes something seen in retrospective as extraordinary.

  • RobertCHastings

    I didn’t catch the part about the Chinese factory when this was on the news. Prouty was right, that was by far the most telling thing of his speech. He must answer the same questions K-Mart, J. C. Penney, Ralph Lauren and others must answer about their part in slave labor and human trafficking. At least Romney admitted he knew about what was going on, although his tacit approval does not do much for his moral character. It’s amazing how these supposed Christians seem to feel so comfortable with this sort of thing.

    • You point out one of the saddest things of all, that there are people who truely believe they are Christians, aligning themselves with a political party that is clearly bowing to the Devil’s commandments. Quite clearly, Jesus taught that loving the world, and especially the things in it that money will buy, creates an impossible situation for a Christian (you can’t love the world and attain to Heaven);so given that the GOP is all about money and keeping it in the pockets of those who already have more of it than they ever should need; shows clearly that the GOP is anti-Christian – and those who align themselves with it, CINOs – Christians in Name Only.