President Obama rebuffed Mitt Romney’s calls for him to apologize for attacks on the GOP candidate’s record at private equity firm Bain Capital.
“No, we won’t be apologizing,” said Obama in an interview with local Portsmouth, Virginia television station WAVY.
Obama said Romney’s business record was a fair target in the campaign.
Democrats have hit Romney on his work at Bain Capital, suggesting that he oversaw the outsourcing of American jobs by companies owned by the private equity giant after 1999.
The debate over Romney’s business record escalated last week after Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter suggested that Romney may have committed “a felony” by misrepresenting his tenure at Bain in filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Romney says he left Bain in 1999 to help the Salt Lake City Olympics organizing committee, but records filed with the SEC which resurfaced last week suggest he was at Bain until 2001.
Her comments led him to demand an apology from the president.
Obama, in his interview, doubled down on those Democratic criticisms of Romney and called on the former Massachusetts governor to provide voters with more information on his work at Bain.
“As the head of a private equity firm his job was to maximize profits and help wealthy investors. There’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, that company also was investing in companies that the Washington Post called pioneers of outsourcing and he’s now claiming I wasn’t there at the time except he files an SEC listing that says he was the CEO, chairman and president of the company,” said Obama.
“As president of the United States one of the things we just talked about is that anything that happens on my watch is my responsibility. That’s what people expect. Harry Truman said ‘the buck stops with me,’ and I think understandably people are going to be interested in are you in fact responsible for this company that you say is one of your primary calling cards for being president,” he added.
Obama’s comments mirrored those of other Democrats on Sunday. Cutter in an interview with CBS earlier in the day also said Romney was “not going to get an apology.”
On ABC’s This Week, former White House chief-of-staff turned Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel similarly said Romney had made his business record his “calling card” for why he should be elected and should “stop whining” about attacks from the Obama team.
Romney’s campaign has insisted that he did not work at Bain beyond 1999.
Senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie attempted to clarify the SEC controversy, by saying that while Romney intended to work part time at Bain, his duties on the Olympic organizing team absorbed all of his time and he “retroactively resigned” to 1999.
The Romney campaign has called the Obama attacks an attempt to distract voters from the president’s own economic record, which took a hit after two weak jobs reports.
Obama also dismissed suggestions that his campaign had been more negative than Romney’s.
“We’ve had outside groups that have been pouring tens of millions of dollars of ads against me for the last three and half years,” he said. “Our job in a campaign is to raise the issues. And If you look at all our advertising, what we are focused on is this contrast between two visions and ultimately the way a democracy is going to work is people are going to ask themselves which vision do I prefer.”