WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney demanded President Barack Obama apologize on Friday for his campaign’s assault over Romney’s time at a private equity firm that outsourced U.S. jobs, as he tried to recover from a week-long pounding on the issue.
Romney went on a coordinated campaign, appearing on all U.S. television networks, to respond to charges from the Obama team that have again put the Republican in a defensive posture and kept him from focusing on Obama’s handling of the U.S. economy and high 8.2 percent unemployment.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has appeared flatfooted in responding to the Democrats’ accusations, so much so that some Republicans have said publicly Romney needs to move more quickly to avoid damaging his bid to oust Obama in the November 6 election.
What drew Romney’s ire in particular was a charge from Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter that Romney might have committed a felony by misrepresenting his position at the private equity firm Bain to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“It’s ridiculous,” Romney told Fox News in response to the charge. “And of course it’s beneath the dignity of the presidency and of his campaign.”
The Boston Globe reported that Romney did not quit running Bain Capital until 2002, three years after he has said he left the company.
Timing matters because Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 and thus was not responsible for bankruptcies and layoffs at Bain-owned businesses after that time, which Obama’s re-election campaign have used to question the Republican’s track record.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, traveling with Obama in Virginia, declined comment on Romney’s demand for an apology.
Romney told ABC News that Obama “needs to rein in these people who are running out of control.”
“He (Obama) sure as heck ought to say that he’s sorry for the kinds of attacks that are coming from his team,” Romney said.
Obama himself got into the act on Friday, saying Romney should answer questions about whether he worked for Bain longer than previously described.
Romney has said he left the firm in 1999, when he was tapped to lead the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. But the Boston Globe reported on Thursday that public records indicate he was still registered as a top manager at Bain for three more years.
Romney has used his time at Bain to argue that as a businessman he is best equipped to help trigger job growth in the United States.
“Ultimately Mr. Romney, I think, is going to have to answer those questions, because if he aspires to being president one of the things you learn is, you are ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations,” Obama told ABC television affiliate WJLA in an interview.
Citing SEC documents, the newspaper said Romney remained Bain’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president” until 2002, when he and the firm finalized a severance deal.
Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker