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The 47 percent story came to prominence, Carter says, only because he'd worked on the sweatshop story. "I wondered, Why does this [person] from South Florida care about sweatshops in China?"
On September 10, a CD from Florida materialized on Corn's D.C. desk. Not expecting much, the editor popped it into his computer. But when he heard Romney say those words — 47 percent — he stopped the video. His blood was pumping. "When I saw it, I had to play it again," Corn says. "To see a presidential candidate, in his own words, show such detachment and ignorance was stunning."
Corn soon discovered that reporters at the Huffington Post were hounding Onymous for the video as well. She demurred but then demanded that Corn blur everyone's face — except Romney's — if he were to show the video.
Within a week, the video was up. It went viral within hours. The reason, says Bryan Marshall, a political science professor at Miami University in Ohio, is that "voters were primed... When the 47 percent video came out, it solidified their impression of him."
Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, issued a statement condemning the comments, and Romney's camp foundered under the scrutiny. Conservative political commentator Sean Hannity made perhaps the most ridiculous suggestion of the whole election: "If I'm Governor Romney, I run with this all day long."
Soon, Carter appeared on MSNBC's Hardball and NBC's Today and even snared inquiries from an agent asking him to write a book. It was vindication. For months, Romney had derided Carter's grandfather on the stump.
Carter, who doesn't know Anne Onymous' real name, says he suspects the videographer is a middle-aged white man. Leder, who threw the fundraiser for Romney, theorizes she was probably a member of the catering crew. But neither explanation fits with what we know about her. Why would a middle-aged white guy care so much about the factory girls of China? And why would someone on a catering crew not capitalize on this moment — write a book, make a movie, get famous?
What's holding Anne Onymous back? Perhaps it's the law or an embittered Mitt Romney trolling for scapegoats. Or maybe it's something else entirely. What if Anne Onymous is one of the millionaires who paid a bundle to attend? We don't know. The last thing we heard from her, by email of course: "I just can't talk right now." And then — poof — she disappeared.