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Bain, Bain, Go Away: In Defense, Romney Attacks

Mitt Romney appears on ABC News in one of the five TV interviews he did Friday. He mostly responded to comments from the Obama campaign about his role at Bain Capital.
ABC News
Mitt Romney appears on ABC News in one of the five TV interviews he did Friday. He mostly responded to comments from the Obama campaign about his role at Bain Capital.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sat for a hastily arranged flurry of TV interviews Friday, strongly denying he had any role in running Bain Capital at a time when, according to reports, the company invested in firms that outsourced jobs overseas.

He also called for an apology from President Obama for statements by his campaign that Romney said were beneath the dignity of the presidency.

The five network interviews came after stories this week about Romney's role in Bain Capital. According to documents filed with the government, Romney was still CEO, president and sole owner of Bain as late as 2002. Yet Romney insists when he left Bain to organize the Salt Lake City Olympics in February 1999, that was the end of his involvement with the company.

"Well, I was the owner of an entity that is filing that information, but I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999," he told CNN. "Not that that would have been a problem to have said that I was with the firm beyond that, but I simply wasn't."

A Campaign Fixture

Romney's role as CEO of Bain has become a central issue in the presidential contest. Romney has touted his leadership there as a job creator and says it gave him experience to lead the nation out of its economic doldrums.

But the Obama campaign has pointed to stories that say Bain invested in firms that outsourced U.S. jobs overseas and led other companies into bankruptcy. It's become a staple of the president's speeches and campaign ads. The president raised the issue in his own TV interview Friday with local Washington, D.C., station WJLA.

"Now, my understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the SEC multiple times that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital," Obama said, "and I think most Americans figure if you are the chairman, CEO and president of a company, that you are responsible for what that company does."

Romney's Rebuttal

The Romney campaign clearly felt it needed to address the issue. Not only did Romney sit for the TV interviews — something he rarely does — earlier in the week, but the campaign also launched a blistering ad of its own, using a clip of Hillary Clinton from the 2008 Democratic nomination battle. In the clip, Clinton refutes alleged untruths about her by the Obama campaign, saying, "Shame on you, Barack Obama."

Romney said Friday the Obama campaign was trying to shift attention away from what Romney said was the president's failure to do the job he was elected to do, which was to get this economy turned around.

He also condemned the Obama campaign's assertion that Romney would be guilty of a felony for misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC.

"It's ridiculous, and of course, it's beneath the dignity of the presidency and of his campaign," Romney said. "He really needs to rein in his team and finally take responsibility for what they're saying. This is really absurd."

More Tax Returns?

While Romney refused to back away from his earlier statements about his role at Bain, he also refused to bend when asked if he would release more of his income tax returns.

"People always want to get more, and, you know, we're putting out what is required, plus more that is not required," he said. "And those are the two years that people are going to have ... that's all that's necessary for people to understand something about my finances."

There is no legal requirement that presidential candidates release their taxes. Democrats say Romney should look to his father's example: When he ran for president, George Romney released 12 years worth of income tax returns. And as the Friday afternoon fight over Bain suggests, it's an issue that isn't likely to go away anytime soon.

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NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.