President Obama says he regrets the "syntax" of his "you didn't build that" remark at a July campaign rally in Virginia that has since become a rallying cry for Republicans.
"Obviously, I have regrets for my syntax," Obama told Norfolk, Va., TV affiliate WWBT in an interview that aired Wednesday. "But not for the point, because everyone who was there watching knows exactly what I was saying."
The president was making his case for higher taxes on wealthier Americans to fund greater government investments in education and infrastructure to boost the middle class.
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help," Obama said at the rally in Roanoke. "There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together," he said.
Democrats have embraced the spirit of Obama's comment at their convention this week in Charlotte.
"'We're all in this together' is a far better philosophy that 'you're on your own,'" former President Bill Clinton told Democratic Convention delegates Wednesday night.
Republicans argue that Obama's comment reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how businesses are started and run and the challenges that small business owners face.
They have rebutted Obama with a refrain of "you did build it," making it a major theme of the Republican National Convention.
In the interview with WWBT, Obama also rebutted recent criticism that his campaign is unable to answer affirmatively that the country is better off since he took office.
"We are absolutely better off than we were when I was sworn in and we were losing 800,000 jobs in a month," Obama said.
"Obviously, we have much more to do," he said. "That is true here in Virginia and that is true all across the country."