Top Obama campaign officials – campaign manager Jim Messina, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, and press secretary Ben LaBolt – joined Diane Sawyer, Yahoo! White House correspondent Olivier Knox and myself for a “Newsmakers” panel this morning.
You can read the entire transcript HERE.
TAPPER: One point that you guys are trying to make — and the president makes it again on the cover of today’s USA Today, “Obama: Rivals Bend the Truth” — is you are definitely very aggressively accusing Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan of lying, of telling lies. When you make charges like that, do you not think that…it’s incumbent upon you and your campaign to make sure that every claim you make is truthful? Do you not undermine your own cause when, for instance, the vice president goes out and says Bain took a taxpayer-financed bailout when that’s not true or when President Obama goes out and says that Mitt Romney supports indefinite war in Afghanistan? Which is not true. Romney has endorsed the timetable from NATO. Do you not undermine your own charge when you — when your campaign is not truthful?
LABOLT: Well, let me — let me first address some of those individual claims. And I will say we work very hard to get it right. We look at the facts, we vet what we say, we really do try hard to get it right.
TAPPER: Do what fact checkers say have an impact on you?
LABOLT: And we can walk through those individual claims…
LABOLT: … or any that you bring up. The fact is that, while Mitt Romney, when a million jobs were on the line in the auto industry, Mitt Romney said that we should let Detroit go bankrupt, but when it came to a challenge for the firm of himself and his partners he went to the federal government, to the FDIC, to get a bailout. So I think we try very hard…
TAPPER: But that’s not taxpayer funds, the FDIC.
CUTTER: Well, it’s taxpayer guaranteed.
TAPPER: But that’s not what the vice president said.
CUTTER: Well, I mean, Jake, I understand the conversation that we’re having about whether campaigns sometimes bend the truth. And we try very hard to get it right. As opposed to the Romney campaign, who’ve said they’re not going to run their campaign based on fact checks, which means facts don’t matter to them. We do care about fact checks. We do care about the honesty of our ads. I just want to — you know, on your own network this morning, Paul Ryan was at it again. And it wasn’t our headlines last Thursday morning. It was the news media headlines about all of the lies in Paul Ryan’s speech. So I think we do have to acknowledge that there’s a difference between running a campaign and prosecuting a case against your opponent and flat-out lying. You know, once again this morning, Paul Ryan said that the president was responsible for the closing of the Janesville plant, a G.M. plan that closed. The announcement was made in December of 2008, but production stopped — do I have that right? — before the president took the oath of office.
LABOLT: That’s correct.
CUTTER: So, I mean, give us a break.
LABOLT: They’ve actually put Congressman Ryan in the position of attacking $716 billion in Medicare savings that he preserved in his own budget.
CUTTER: And this is the man that was chosen because he was the intellectual leader of the Republican Party.
TAPPER: I don’t want to get into us having to fact-check Paul Ryan. I’m just wondering as a larger proposition, when your campaign says things that aren’t true, such as the two examples I cited about the vice president and the president, doesn’t that undermine the outrage factor of things that the other side says that are not true?
LABOLT: I think we — we’d generally dispute — dispute this. Look, there was — there was a situation earlier this year where The Washington Post in a well-reported story, reported that Mitt Romney invested in companies that actually pioneered outsourcing. They ran that story and then the fact-checker at the paper wrote a fact check debunking their own reporting, and then he walked the fact-check back. So there are some times when there are different sets of facts out there. The campaign highlights a set of facts. You may find a different set of facts and make that point. But I think all of the examples you’ve brought up — the FDIC bailout — we presented the facts. We made our case. We — we did everything we can that they’re accurate claims. But the entire premise of the Republican convention last week was based on a set of lies and they were a replacement for Governor Romney talking at all about his policies. You didn’t hear about those $5 trillion tax cuts for the wealthiest. You didn’t hear about his budget proposal and the fact that if we pass it it will be harder for students to get a loan. It would turn Medicare into a voucher program and cost seniors thousands of dollars out of pocket. Instead, you heard the president’s remarks ripped out of Congress — out of context. You heard Congressman Ryan attack Medicare savings in his own budget and blame the president for the closure of a G.M. plant that was slated for closure before the president took office. That was the entire premise of their three-day convention.