Republicans continue to call on President Obama and his campaign to give an apology for questioning Mitt Romney's role at Bain Capital. They won't be getting one.
"No, we won't be apologizing," the president said in an interview aired today. "Sometimes these games are played during political campaigns. Understand what the issues are here: Mr Romney claims he's Mr. Fix-it for the economy because of his business experience, so I think voters entirely legitimately want to know what is exactly his business experience."
Speaking to NBC's Portsmouth, Va., affiliate station, WAVY-TV, Obama invoked a past White House occupant in an argument he has used for days on the campaign trail.
"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 you say is one of your primary calling cards for your wanting to be President," he said.
On Thursday an Obama campaign manager upped the ante on Romney's final days at Bain Capital by suggesting the Republican candidate had either lied to the public or misrepresented "his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony," by saying he had left the company in 1999. Romney gave five network interviews to defend himself, stating the Obama campaign had gone "out of control."
That spokeswoman doubled down on the attack today by stating there was no point in "arguing the semantics" of whether he was officially active at the firm during the time.
"If you're signing an SEC document with your own signature that you're the president, C.E.O., chairman of the board and 100 percent owner of a company, in what world are you living in that you're not in charge?" Stephanie Cutter said on CBS.
On ABC's "This Week," former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel put it another way:
"As president of the United States you can't have a sign on your desk that says, 'Gone fishing,'" the Chicago mayor said.
Emanuel and Cutter had come to represent the Democratic side in the row at the heart of the issue: Whether Romney could be held responsible for layoffs and outsourcing at Bain properties after he supposedly left to manage the U.S. Olympic Committee.
On the other side of the table: Romney adviser Kevin Madden.
"The reason there is a document in 2002 that had his signature is, during that transition from 1999 to 2002 where there was transfer of ownership to the new partners of Bain, that there was a duty to sign those documents," Madden said. "Even a bipartisan commission indicated Governor Romney left Bain in 1999."
It is a fact that Romney remained at the company until at least 2002, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings obtained by the Boston Globe. But some independent fact checking organizations have criticized the reporting of Romney's role at the time, stating there was no evidence to say he took part in any decision-making processes.
Republicans have seized on those articles, demanding an apology from the Obama campaign. Madden repeated the call, but Cutter maintained it was out of the question.
"Instead of whining about what the Obama campaign is saying, just put the facts out there and let people decide, rather than trying to hide them," she said.
Cutter and Emanuel both referenced Romney's refusal to release any tax returns dating before 2010, which would shed light onto the nature of overseas holdings the candidate possessed.
"You've learned in just one year about the Caymans, about the Bahamas, about Luxembourg, and about Switzerland, all where his tax and different accounts are," Emanuel said. "His tax - his tax filing looks more like the Olympic Village than it does like a middle-class family."
Madden said Romney had "gone above and beyond" financial disclosure laws required of candidates, releasing "hundreds and hundreds of pages of financial disclosures with the [Federal Election Commission.]"
On CNN, another Romney surrogate, Ed Gillepsie, said the candidate's departure for the Olympics was originally planned as a "leave of absence."
"He ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February of 1999 as a result," Gillepsie said.
"Ed Gillepsie" and "#retroactively" reached top 10 positions on Twitter shortly after the statement was made.
ABC's Daniel Steinberger contributed to this report.