Mitt Romney: Personal attacks 'wrong course for a PAC or a campaign'

Mitt Romney distanced himself Thursday from a controversial proposal considered by a GOP-leaning super-PAC to attack President Obama for the relationship with his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Romney said personal attacks were the "wrong course for a PAC or a campaign,” in his first public comments on the matter, following a campaign event in Jacksonville, Fla.

"I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the future and the issues and a vision for our future. I've been disappointed in the president's campaign to date, which is focused on character assassination," Romney said. "I just think we're wiser to talk about the issues of the day, what we'd do to get America working again, talk about our respective records."

Romney went on to press the claim that the president had engaged in "character assassination," calling it the "centerpiece of his campaign."

Asked what he was referring to, the presumptive Republican nominee eventually pointed to the Obama campaign's attack on his tenure at Bain Capital.

"My effort at Bain Capital was designed in every case to make the businesses we invested in more successful," Romney said. "There's this fiction that some have that somehow you can be highly successful by stripping assets from enterprise and walking away with lots of money and killing the enterprise. There may be some people who know how to do that, I sure don't."

But Romney did not back away from a comment he made in February when asked to respond to a remark from Obama that the United States is not a "Christian nation."

"I’m not sure which is worse, him listening to Rev. Wright or him saying that we must be a less Christian nation," Romney told conservative radio and TV host Sean Hannity at the time.

On Thursday, Romney said he didn't remember making the remark but stood by it.

"I'm not familiar with precisely what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was," Romney said.

The Ending Spending Action Fund, the super-PAC run by billionaire Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts, which was considering the ad campaign, said Thursday it would not pursue that line of attack.

The proposal "reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take. Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a President this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally," a statement from the organization said.