Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has suffered a blow after a video surfaced showing him telling wealthy donors that 47% of all Americans "believe they are victims" entitled to help from the government.
Mr Romney offered no apologies, conceding the comments were not "elegantly stated" and were "off the cuff". The presidential nominee said the remarks showed a contrast between President Barack Obama's "government-centred society" and his belief in a "free-market approach".
"Of course, I want to help all Americans, all Americans, have a bright and prosperous future," Mr Romney told an impromptu news conference.
Mr Obama's campaign pounced on the video, which was obtained by the magazine Mother Jones and released only hours after Romney's campaign outlined a new strategy to try to rejuvenate a struggling campaign.
The video's emergence came as advisers to the former Massachusetts governor tried to reassure party leaders and donors about Mr Romney's strategy amid concerns that the race could be slipping away.
In the video, recorded at a Florida fundraiser in May, Mr Romney is shown saying: "There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
Mr Romney said in the video that his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives".
In a seven-minute news conference before a fundraiser near Los Angeles, Mr Romney did not dispute the authenticity of the hidden-camera footage, but he called for the release of the full video, instead of just the clips posted online. He sought to clarify his remarks but did not apologise when a reporter asked if he was concerned that he may have offended people.
He said: "It's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff in response to a question. And I'm sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that."
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina quickly issued a fundraising appeal based on the video, telling supporters: "If we don't come through for President Obama right now, this will be the guy making big decisions that affect us and our families every single day."