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Obama says Romney needs to explain his Bain timetable

By Adam Aigner-Treworgy, CNN
updated 8:59 PM EDT, Fri July 13, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Obama: "Mr. Romney, I think, is going to have to answer those questions"
  • A new campaign video explains why the Obama campaign thinks this is an important issue
  • Romney calls this "an effort on the part of the president's campaign to divert attention"

(CNN) -- President Obama weighed in Friday on the controversy surrounding when Mitt Romney surrendered leadership of his former financial firm, Bain Capital, saying he thinks the Republican candidate should address questions that have been raised.

The issue has dominated the political conversation since documents surfaced earlier in the week suggesting that Romney might not have left Bain in 1999 as his campaign has long claimed.

Asked in an interview with Washington-area station WJLA whether he thought Romney was being dishonest with the American people, Obama quoted Harry Truman, saying that as president "the buck stops with you."

Romney: Obama strategy is 'disgusting'
Romney defends Bain departure date

"My understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the (Securities and Exchange Commission), multiple times, that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital, and I think most Americans figure if you are the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does," Obama said.

"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. 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."

Asked if he thought Romney needed to clarify his position with Bain "soon," the president responded, "Yeah, absolutely."

The interview was conducted after an Obama rally in Virginia Beach.

The president's campaign quickly issued a tweet promoting the WJLA interview and another including a link to a new campaign web video that attempts to explain why the Obama team feels the apparent discrepancy is "important."

The video features CNN's National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta explaining that if Romney was indeed in charge of Bain after 1999, he could be held responsible for actions taken by the firm that his campaign has tried to deny Romney had any involvement in. The Obama campaign's video goes on to list several companies Bain was involved with that it claims either outsourced jobs or filed for bankruptcy after 1999.

In its closing images, the video offers two possible conclusions, "Either Romney filed false SEC statements, or he's making false statements to the American people now."

In an interview with Acosta later Friday afternoon, Romney defended his tenure with Bain and disputed reports he left the firm later than he previously had said.

Romney blasts 'dishonest' Obama ads; president continues attacks

"There's nothing wrong with being associated with Bain Capital, of course," Romney said. "But the truth is that I left any role at Bain Capital in February of 1999."

The rhetoric over when exactly Romney left Bain has escalated in the days since the new documents were published. The Obama campaign suggested on a conference call Thursday that if Romney misled the SEC it would be a felony, and the Romney campaign responded by saying such a "reckless and unsubstantiated" accusation "calls into question the integrity" of the president's entire campaign.

On Friday, Romney said the Democratic criticism and recent news articles looking into what is known of Romney's complicated financial portfolio are simply "an effort on the part of the president's campaign to divert attention from the fact that the president has been a failure when it comes to reigniting the American economy."

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