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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Mitt Romney sat for a quickly arranged flurry of TV interviews yesterday. Mr. Romney strongly denied he had any role in running Bain Capital at a time when, according to reports, the company invested in firms that outsourced jobs overseas. He also called for an apology from President Barack Obama for statements by his campaign that Mr. Romney said were beneath the dignity of the presidency. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: There were five network interviews. They came after stories this week about Romney's role in Bain Capital. According to documents filed with the government, Romney was still CEO, president, and sole owner of Bain as late as 2002. But Romney insists when he left Bain in February 1999 to organize the Salt Lake City Olympics, that was the end his involvement. Here's what he told CNN.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I was the owner of an entity that is filing that information, but I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999. Not that that would have been a problem to have said that I was with the firm beyond that, but I simply wasn't.
NAYLOR: Romney's role as CEO of Bain has become an central issue in the presidential contest. Romney has touted his leadership there as a job creator and says it gave him experience to lead the nation out of its economic doldrums. But the Obama campaign has pointed to stories that say Bain invested in firms that outsourced U.S. jobs overseas, and led other companies into bankruptcy. It's become a staple of the president's speeches and campaign ads. The president raised the issue in his own TV interview yesterday.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, my understanding is, is that Mr. Romney attested to the SEC 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.
NAYLOR: The Romney campaign clearly felt it needed to address the issue. Not only did Romney sit for the TV interviews, something he rarely does, earlier in the week, the campaign also launched a blistering ad of its own, using a clip of Hillary Clinton from the 2008 democratic nomination battle.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Obama outsourcing attacks. Misleading, unfair and untrue. There was no evidence that Mitt Romney shipped jobs overseas. Candidate Obama lied about Hillary Clinton.
SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: So shame on you, Barack Obama.
NAYLOR: Romney said yesterday the Obama campaign was trying to shift attention from what Romney said was the presidents failure to do the job that he was elected to do, which was to get this economy turned around. And he condemned the Obama campaign's assertion that Romney would be guilty of a felony for misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC.
ROMNEY: It's ridiculous and of course it's beneath the dignity of the presidency and of his campaign. He really needs to reign in his team and to finally take responsibility for what they're saying. This is really absurd.
NAYLOR: While Romney refused to back away from his earlier statements about his role at Bain, he also refused to bend when asked if he would release more of his income tax returns.
ROMNEY: People always want to get more and you know we're putting out what is required, plus more that is not required. And those are the two years that people are going to have and that's all that's necessary for people to understand something about my finances.
NAYLOR: There is no legal requirement that presidential candidates release their taxes. Democrats say Romney should look to his father's example. When he ran for president, George Romney released 12 years worth of his income tax returns. And as the Friday afternoon fight over Bain suggests, it's an issue that isn't likely to go away anytime soon.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.