President Barack Obama's chief spokesman on Thursday denounced as "divisive" a reported plan by a conservative super PAC to assail President Barack Obama with ads featuring his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Press secretary Jay Carney also stressed that the president's focus remained the struggling economy.
"To launch a multi-million-dollar, divisive attack campaign is not what the American people want. And I think there are moments when you have to stand up and say that that's not the right way to go," Carney told reporters at his daily briefing, adding that it was "somewhat reassuring" to see denunciations coming from Democrats and from Republicans alike.
Carney noted that Obama had addressed questions about his controversial former pastor and about race generally in the 2008 campaign, notably in a "very memorable, detailed speech" in Philadelphia.
"Right now, in 2012, we're focused on what the American people are focused on: Jobs, the economy, issues of national security," the spokesman said. Obama's "focus is not on that issue or those issues. His focus is on the work he needs to do to help this economy grow."
"I'm not just saying that because that's the preferred answer, I'm saying it because I know it for a fact," Carney said. "I know that that's the issue —- that the economy and jobs is the issue that he spends the vast majority of his time on. And that's what he's going to be talking about going forward."
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney renounced the blueprint in an interview released earlier.
"I repudiate the effort by that PAC to promote an ad strategy of the nature they've described," he told Townhall.com. "I would like to see this campaign focus on the economy, on getting people back to work, on seeing rising incomes and growing prosperity—particularly for those in the middle class of America," the former Massachusetts governor said.
According to a copy of the plan obtained by The New York Times, the group hopes to highlight ties between Obama—who is referred to as a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln"—and his controversial former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "black liberation theology." "This morning's story revealed the appalling lengths to which Republican operatives and SuperPacs apparently are willing to go to tear down the President and elect Mitt Romney," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
"The blueprint for a hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination speaks for itself. It also reflects how far the party has drifted in four short years since John McCain rejected these very tactics," he said.
The Democratic strategist's message came shortly after his counterpart on the Romney campaign, Matt Rhoades, said that his candidate would "repudiate" the politics of "character assassination."
Rhoades had seized on the report to score a few political points of his own, saying that "unlike the Obama campaign, Gov. Romney is running a campaign based on jobs and the economy, and we encourage everyone else to do the same."
"President Obama's team said they would 'kill Romney,' and, just last week, David Axelrod referred to individuals opposing the president as 'contract killers.' It's clear President Obama's team is running a campaign of character assassination. We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so," said Rhoades.