Until this week, Scott Prouty's only bout with fame came when he dived into a canal in Florida and saved a woman from drowning. Like many Americans, the Boston-area native held down working-class jobs, ran into some financial trouble and remained generally anonymous.
But not many Americans are responsible for nearly bringing down a presidential campaign.
Mr. Prouty, 38, has now revealed himself as the man who shot the "47 percent" video showing Republican challenger Mitt Romney dismissing President Barack Obama's supporters during a private fundraiser -- the single event that, more than anything else, may have ruined Mr. Romney's shot at the presidency.
"I was behind this whole thing," Mr. Prouty, who now lives in Florida, said as he revealed on MSNBC's "The Ed Show" on Wednesday night that he had secretly filmed Mr. Romney's comments while tending bar at the $50,000-per-plate event.
Mr. Prouty's unveiling, if nothing else, exposed him to the scrutiny that comes with being one of the most influential, if unknown, figures in the presidential campaign that gave Mr. Obama a second term. Speaking in firm, declarative tones, Mr. Prouty presented himself as someone not motivated by politics, saying he is a "registered independent" who tends to vote Democratic, but "didn't go there with a grudge against Romney."
Yet voter-registration records show that Mr. Prouty registered as a Democrat in 2002, and election officials said he has maintained that party affiliation. His former Twitter account is full of populist and political messages, including several criticizing Mr. Romney or Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the former GOP vice-presidential candidate, and another blasting National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre as "an evil man." Mr. Prouty attended Mr. Obama's second inauguration and also told MSNBC's Ed Schultz he was "proud to call him my president."
In Mr. Prouty's native Massachusetts, where he grew up in working-class Braintree and attended Boston's Northeastern University, his father, Kenneth Prouty, declared that he was "very proud of my son."
In a brief phone interview, the senior Mr. Prouty said: "Everything he said pretty much rings true. Mitt Romney made his bed. It wasn't really Scott doing it; it was Mitt Romney doing it. It kind of showed his true colors." He said his son "was kind of sticking up for the American public, as far as I'm concerned -- the average person who couldn't be there to hear what was going on."
At the time, Mr. Romney's remarks -- made at a May 17 fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., at the home of private-equity manager Marc Leder -- riveted the political world. Obama backers will vote for the president "no matter what," the GOP candidate said in a video Mr. Prouty leaked to David Corn, Mother Jones magazine's Washington bureau chief, adding that he does not "worry about those people."
In a recent interview with "Fox News Sunday's" Chris Wallace, the former Massachusetts governor admitted that the speech repercussions were severe. "That hurt," Mr. Romney said. "There's no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign."
Ironically, it was Mr. Romney's recent emergence from his self-seclusion after the election -- he spoke Friday at the CPAC convention of conservative activists in National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington -- that Mr. Prouty indicated was what motivated him to surface finally.
"Romney came out, again, on Fox News," Mr. Prouty told Mr. Schultz. "He's calling the president Nero. He's saying his words were twisted. He's blaming the media. ... He's sitting in his mansion in San Diego somewhere and giving interviews and calling the president names."
After the May fundraiser, Mr. Prouty said he struggled for two weeks deciding whether to release the video and risk his career. He worried about losing his job or getting sued; Florida laws prohibit the recording of anyone without consent.
He decided he had an obligation to go public, saying of Mr. Romney: "I don't think he has any idea what a single mom, you know, taking a bus to work, dropping her kid off at day care that she can barely afford, hopping on another bus -- you know, the day in, day out struggles of everyday Americans."
In 2005, while working for an auto dealership, Mr. Prouty and two co-workers were honored by The Weston (Fla.) City Commission for saving the life of a woman trapped underwater in her vehicle after it plunged into a canal along Interstate 75. The resolution said Mr. Prouty dived into the water, cut the woman from her seat belt and kept diving after noticing a child safety seat, but there was no child in the car.
James Carter IV, a former researcher for Mr. Corn who now runs his own political research firm, shed more light in a phone interview Thursday on how the "47 percent" video was made public. Mr. Carter, former President Jimmy Carter's grandson, said Mr. Prouty had anonymously posted a muddied Romney clip from the same fundraiser.
The clip did not gain traction online, but Mr. Carter had been scouring the Web for videos of Mr. Romney in hopes of finding something he could use against Republicans. He noticed that the Romney clip was posted under the pseudonym Anne Onymous670, the same moniker as someone following him on Twitter. "He followed me first, and I sent him a direct message. It was a mutual," said Mr. Carter, who put him in touch with Mr. Corn.