WASHINGTON -– Mitt Romney called attacks on his business record by President Barack Obama's reelection campaign "disgusting," but backed off calling the president a liar in one of a series of TV interviews on Friday afternoon.
"What the president is doing is terribly destructive to the political process and beneath what the people of America expected from someone who said he was going to rise above partisan politics and bring a new era of change to Washington," Romney told CNN, in one of five TV interviews to address the uproar over his time at private equity firm Bain Capital.
The round robin TV sessions, scheduled hastily on a Friday, demonstrated how Romney's campaign has been thrown off balance and off-message by the questions and criticisms regarding his successful business career before he held political office.
Referring to Obama advisers who suggested Romney might have committed a felony if he filled out federal disclosure forms that were inaccurate or misleading, Romney demanded Obama apologize and told ABC's Jon Karl: "The president needs to take control of these people."
But when asked point-blank by CNN's Jim Acosta if the president was "lying," Romney stopped short.
"There's no question but that his campaign is putting out information which is false and deceptive and dishonest. And they know it. And they ought to stop," Romney said.
Romney's campaign, however, has not been so shy. Since late June, the campaign has been running a TV ad in at least six states that accuses Obama of coming after Romney in the same way he "attacked Hillary Clinton with vicious lies" in 2008. The Romney campaign nearly a week ago sent out a press release accusing Obama of telling "desperate lies."
The intense partisan bickering came to a brief halt late Friday after the Obama campaign announced that 29-year old staffer Alex Okrent had collapsed Friday in its Chicago headquarters and was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. Romney offered condolences over Twitter to Okrent's family and the campaign, and top Obama adviser David Axelrod thanked the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee.
In all five interviews Romney conducted -– with CNN, Fox News, ABC News, NBC News and CBS News -– he said he did not have any active role in Bain Capital after he left Massachusetts in 1999 to go to Utah and oversee preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
"There's absolutely no evidence that I had any role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999," he told ABC.
The time period in question is under debate because Democrats say Romney is responsible for investments made after February 1999 by Bain that led to U.S. companies sending jobs to other countries.
Romney insisted Friday that he was not an active participant in the company, despite signing multiple forms filed on behalf of Bain with the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1999 to 2001, appearing as the "sole shareholder, sole director, chief executive officer and president" of Bain on other SEC forms, and attending board meetings on behalf of at least one firm Bain had a stake in during that time. He signed a 2011 disclosure form with the federal government stating he was not involved with Bain from 1999 to 2002 "in any way."
"There's a difference between being a shareholder, an owner, if you will, and being a person who's running an entity," Romney told CNN.
Romney also made clear that he has no intentions of releasing more than two years of tax returns. He has released his 2010 returns already and plans to release his 2011 returns this fall.
"You can never satisfy the opposition research team of the Obama organization," Romney told CBS' Jan Crawford. "They'll always want more. And the answer is they'll have this year's and last year's and that's the information that, by the way, is not required by law. It's the same type of information that was provided by Senator McCain and his campaign."
Romney told NBC's Peter Alexander: " I’ve put out as much as we’re gonna put out, once I’ve added this year."