TAMPA, Fla. – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a group of out-of-work Floridians Thursday that "I'm also unemployed," quickly drawing criticism from Democrats who said it showed the former Massachusetts governor and multimillionaire was out of touch.
Romney made the comment while criticizing President Barack Obama's economic plan to a small group of business owners and unemployed workers at a Tampa coffee shop. The former equity firm CEO told the group that he did have his eye on one particular job, however.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement saying Romney's comments were "inappropriate and insensitive to the millions of Americans looking for work."
"This comment shows that Mitt Romney — a man who wants for nothing and whose only occupation for more than four years has been to run for president — is incredibly out of touch with what's going on in our country and around the dinner tables of those who are out of work," she said. "Being unemployed, Mr. Romney, is not a joke."
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom called the Democratic criticism an "absurd distortion" of statement that what was clearly made in jest.
"The person who doesn't take the employment crisis seriously is President Obama, who has discontinued his daily economic briefing," Fehrnstrom said. "If elected, Mitt Romney will reinstate the daily economic briefing and make job creation his number one priority."
At an appearance in Georgia later in the day, Romney attacked the Obama administration's record on unemployment and said he was poking fun at himself.
"I will always make light of myself," Romney said during a tour of Kenny's Great Pies in Smyrna, Ga. "Self-deprecating humor is a part of who I am."
"But the reality is we have a president who doesn't understand the plight of the unemployed."
Florida's April unemployment rate was 10.8 percent, higher than the national rate of 9 percent.