Mitt Romney stuck to his guns in interviews with the major news networks, this afternoon.
"I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999," Romney told CNN.
Romney went on a major offensive today granting interviews to CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox News. The Republican presidential candidate has been on the defensive since The Boston Globe reported on Thursday that documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed Romney was listed as the CEO of Bain three years after he said he left the company.
Those three years — 2000, 2001 and 2002 — have come into focus because as the Globe put it Romney "has said his resignation in February 1999 meant he was not responsible for Bain Capital companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after that date."
Romney told CNN that during those years, he was busy running the Salt Lake Olympics and that while he retained those titles, he was not actively managing the company.
"There's a difference," he said, "between being a majority shareholder and managing" a company.
Romney also responded to sworn testimony in which he said that he had attended board meetings during those years.
Romney explained that when he sat in on the meetings of companies like Staples, he was doing so in a personal capacity not as a representative of Bain.
The Obama team, he said, is only using this issue as a distraction.
The president's campaign for its part has tried to define Romney as a pioneer in outsourcing American jobs. Obama's campaign manager Stephanie Cutter posited during a conference call on Thursday that Romney's "misrepresentations" could constitute a felony.
In his interview with CBS, Romney repeated his criticism of President Obama's campaign.
"What kind of president would have a campaign that says something like that about the nominee of another party?" Romney told CBS. "This is reckless and absurd on his part, and it's something that's beneath his dignity. I hope he recognizes that even fellow Democrats have said that.
"Look - the president needs to talk about the direction he'd take the country, and stop these kinds of ads and attacks that are so disparate from what the American people want to talk about," Romney said, adding that Obama "has demeaned the leadership which he should be bringing to this country."
President Obama did not back down from his campaign's position. In an interview he gave WJLA — portions of which were released by the White House — Obama said that ultimately when Romney was listed as CEO in the SEC documents, he was responsible for whatever happened at the company.
The president told the local Washington, D.C. station:
"Well, here's what I know, we were just talking about responsibility and as president of the United States, it's pretty clear to me that I'm responsible for folks who are working in the federal government and you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you.
"Now, my understanding is the 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.
"Ultimately Mr. Romney, I think, is going to have to answer those questions, uh 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."
Update at 7:23 p.m. ET. All The Interviews:
Here are links to all the interviews Romney gave today:
— "Romney calls 'felony' remark 'beneath the dignity' of presidency, urges Obama to 'rein in' team" (Fox News)
— "Romney: Obama campaign 'deceptive and dishonest'" (CNN)
— "Romney: Obama owes me an apology (CBS News)
— "Romney: I left all management of Bain Capital in February 1999" (NBC News)
— "Romney to Obama: Apologize for Bain Questions" (ABC News)
Update at 6:53 p.m. ET. Background:
If you really want to dig into this issue, The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, the paper's "fact checker," tried to sift through the rhetoric.
While the paper found that Romney signed at least six SEC filings during the three-year period and that there is a "grey area" in this story, "we think there are two stronger pieces of evidence that trump these random filings."
One of them is that Romney filed a sworn statement in which he said he "retired" from Bain in 1999.
Update at 6:50 p.m. ET. Obama Should Apologize:
In his interview with ABC News, Romney said he needed to "take control" of his staffers and that he owed him an apology.
"He sure as heck ought to say that he's sorry for the kinds of attacks that are coming from his team," Romney said.