Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate in November's US presidential elections, defended his comments about people who are dependent on government services, saying that the secretly recorded video of him speaking at a fundraiser in May actually helps to clarify the philosophical differences between himself and President Barack Obama.
Romney, facing a torrent of criticism for characterising 47 per cent of the US as people who believe they are "victims", sought to steer the political conversation towards a debate about the size and scope of government.
"The president's view is one of a larger government," Romney told Fox News. "I think a society based upon a government-centred nation, where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money - that's the wrong course for America."
Obama took a shot at Romney over the comments in the video, saying presidents must represent all of America.
"One of the things I learned as president is, you represent the entire country," Obama told the CBS talk show host David Letterman. "When I won in 2008, 47 per cent of the American people voted for John McCain," Obama said, referring to his Republican opponent that year.
"They didn't vote for me, and what I said on election night was, 'Even though you didn't vote for me, I hear your voices, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to be your president.'"
The New York Times, Agence France-Presse