A story in The Boston Globe Thursday indicated there is a conflict in the record on when Romney left the venture capital company he founded. The Obama campaign has played up the issue -- with a campaign official and a lawyer for the campaign suggesting Romney may have committed a felony by filing false reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Romney sat for five network and cable TV interviews Friday, maintaining he only nominally ran Bain after 1999 and insisting he would not release any income tax returns beyond his 2010 return, which he has made public and his 2011 return, for which he has released estimates on how much tax he paid, Politico reported.
He said repeatedly during the interviews, "I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999."
In an interview with ABC News, Romney said it is "beneath the dignity of the presidency to go out and say the kind of things that are being said and even Democrats are saying that."
"He sure as heck ought to say that he's sorry for the kinds of attacks that are coming from his team," Romney said.
In an interview with WJLA-TV, Washington, the president was asked Friday whether Romney was being dishonest with the public.
"Ultimately Mr. Romney, I think, is going to have to answer those questions," he said, "because if he aspires to being president one of the things you learn is, you are ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations, but again that's probably a question that he's going to have to answer and I think that's a legitimate part of the campaign."
Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades Thursday called on Obama to apologize after the president's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and campaign lawyer Bob Bauer argued Romney may have lied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about leaving Bain Capital in early 1999 to run the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Their accusations were based on the Globe report that SEC filings showed Romney remained chief executive officer, chairman and sole stockholder at Bain through 2002. The documents cited by the Globe indicated Romney earned at least $100,000 a year as a Bain "executive" in 2001 and 2002.
Romney argues he isn't responsible for outsourcing, job losses and bad deals that Bain was involved with after Feb. 11,1999, when he says he left Bain, because he was running the Olympics.
Cutter told reporters on a conference call Thursday Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was either "misrepresenting his own position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people."
Bauer said if Romney "was not the controlling person that is described [in the filings], that means that these statements are false and ... there are very, very serious legal consequences that would follow."
Cutter said her message to Romney was: "If the SEC filings aren't accurate, prove it. ... Prove it by releasing your tax returns."
"President Obama's campaign hit a new low today when one of its senior advisers made a reckless and unsubstantiated charge to reporters about Mitt Romney that was so over-the-top that it calls into question the integrity of their entire campaign," Rhoades said.
"President Obama ought to apologize for the out-of-control behavior of his staff, which demeans the office he holds," Rhoades said.
Rhoades called on the Globe to print a correction of its report, which the newspaper declined to do, saying its story was "entirely accurate."
The Romney campaign did not dispute any facts in the Globe report, but said the story left a false impression Romney continued to oversee Bain's day-to-day operations.
The Washington Post said its Factchecker found that while Romney "had not legally separated from Bain," by virtually every account he was a "passive investor" with no managerial role in the firm after leaving for Salt Lake City.
Bain said Thursday Romney "has had absolutely no involvement with the management or investment activities of the firm" since leaving to run the Olympics, but that "due to the sudden nature" of his departure, he remained the sole stockholder for some time and his name was on SEC filings "in various capacities."
Bain did not respond to Globe questions about why SEC filings showed Romney in control of five Bain business partnerships that were formed in January 2002 -- nearly three years after Romney says he left.
At the same time, the Romney campaign began airing an attack ad following Obama's dubbing Romney last month an "outsourcing pioneer."
The Romney ad disputes that assertion.
"When a president doesn't tell the truth, how can we trust him to lead?" the ad asks. "The Obama outsourcing attacks: Misleading, unfair and untrue. There was no evidence that Mitt Romney shipped jobs overseas."
The ad started running Thursday in swing states including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Romney acknowledged to Fox Business Network his TV counterattack on outsourcing indicated his campaign was losing the messaging wars.
"I, of course, respond to the attacks that come," he told the network Wednesday.
"But you know, they say in politics, if you're responding, you're losing," he said.