Senior Mitt Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie blasted President Obama's attacks on the GOP candidate, saying Romney had been honest about his tenure at the private equity giant Bain Capital.
"We now know this president will say or do anything to keep the highest office in the land, even if it demeans the highest office in the land," Gillespie said, during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Gillespie on Sunday sought to clarify the matter, saying that Romney initially thought he would be leaving Bain on a temporary basis, but the challenges of the Olympics led him to “retire retroactively.”
"There may have been a thought at the time that it could be part time, but it was not part time," Gillespie said.
"He took a leave of absence and in fact he ended up not going back at all, and retired retroactively to 1999 as a result," he added. "He left a life he loved to go to Salt Lake City and help a country he loves more, and somehow Chicago… is trying to make it something sinister."
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Democrats have raised the issue of Romney's departure date from Bain because they argue that the former Massachusetts governor is responsible for layoffs that occurred at companies that were owned by Bain after 1999.
Romney has responded aggressively to the attacks from the Obama campaign. On Friday, he called for an apology from Obama after a suggestion from the president’s deputy campaign manager that Romney might have committed a felony by misrepresenting his role at Bain to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Gillespie said Romney had been forced into responding to Obama's criticisms about his career at Bain, despite earlier claiming "if you're responding, you're losing," because he wanted to clear the air over the unfair attacks.
"There were questions that Gov. Romney wanted to address, and make sure people understood that he's not a felon," Gillespie said. "That's what this campaign, on the Obama side, was reduced to. And it's sad to see."
The Obama campaign, however, showed no signs Sunday of backing off attacking Romney's background with Bain.
Appearing on the same show after Gillespie, senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod defended the questions about whether Romney had helped companies ship jobs overseas while at Bain and over the former Massachusetts governor’s offshore financial holdings.
Axelrod said they were legitimate criticisms and raised concerns about the policies Romney would enact if elected.
"We've got to reform the tax code, how does that inform his judgment?," he said when CNN host Candy Crowley asked him why the Bain attacks should be relevant to voters focused on the still weak economy.
On Romney's departure date from Bain, Axelrod said the GOP nominee was "very willing to take credit for everything good that he thinks happened after , but he's not willing to take credit for this."
Romney’s campaign has denied that he placed his money in “tax havens” abroad and said Romney has paid all taxes owed in the U.S. They accuse the Obama campaign of seeking to distract voters from two months of weak jobs growth numbers.
“As the failures of his presidency become more evident, Barack Obama has resorted to the tactics of a typical politician – dishonest and totally unsubstantiated attacks meant to distract from his own record by smearing the reputation of his opponent,” said Romney campaign spokesman Amanda Henneberg, in a statement to The Hill on Saturday. “Americans deserve a president they can trust, and not someone willing to say and do anything to win an election.”