stuck in the mittle

Who Has Mitt Romney Fired, and How Much Did He Like Doing It?

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives a thumbs up after speaking to supporters in front of vacant stores of the Valley Plaza shopping center to a campaign stop on July 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Mitt Romney. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Mitt Romney’s awful-when-taken-completely-out-of-context quote, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,” has caused quite the ruckus over the past couple of days. Democrats have tried to capitalize on the remark by interpreting it in the least flattering light possible — they would have us believe that Romney actually “enjoys” the act of firing someone, and is not just appreciative of the option to do so in the free marketplace. Is it true? Does Mitt Romney really like firing people who have provided unsatisfactory service? The only way to really answer that question is to look at past incidents where Romney has personally fired someone and then commented on the firing, thus providing a window into his emotional state. Below, three such incidents, and the degree to which Romney seemed to enjoy them. 

The Firing: Shortly after taking office as governor of Massachusetts, Romney canned 21 executive-branch press secretaries, saving the state $1.2 million a year. 

Romney’s Remarks: “The current communications structure in government makes no sense. It grew over time without any planning or thought. It’s an extremely wasteful system,” Romney said. “By streamlining our communications function, we can do a better job with less people for the taxpayers of Massachusetts.”

Did He Enjoy It?: Kind of! But only because cutting government waste sends a rush of endorphins coursing through his body.  

The Firing: On February 4, 2005,  four Massachusetts high-school students walking in the street because the sidewalk was covered in snow were hit by a truck. The next day, Governor Romney terminated Katherine Abbott, the Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner, for her department’s failure to shovel the sidewalks in a timely manner. 

Romney’s Remarks: “When a matter of public safety is raised, there really can’t be any mistakes,” Romney said. “For that reason, I asked today for Commissioner Abbott to tender to me her letter of resignation. She has done so.” He continued, “Sidewalks that should have been cleared were not cleared, and as a result kids were walking in the street, a busy street. And there is no excuse for that.”

Did He Enjoy It?: This appears to be a very matter-of-fact statement about a somber situation. No enjoyment detected. 

The Firing: In December of 2007, while running for president, Romney fired his landscaping company after discovering that, like every other landscaping company in the country, they were employing illegal immigrants. 

Romney’s Remarks: “I am disappointed that our relationship must end on this note,” Romney wrote to the company. “But we simply cannot tolerate your inability to ensure that your employees are legally permitted to work in the United States.”

Did He Enjoy It?: Actually, the opposite — cutting loose his long-time landscaping company seemed to sadden Romney. 

Findings: Our investigation has resulted in a wash. If Romney relishes the very act of firing people, he doesn’t show it on a regular basis. In fact, sometimes it pains him to fire people, particularly illegal immigrants. 

Romney Firings and How Much He Enjoyed Them