Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, responding to weeks of revelations about, and attacks on, his tenure at Bain Capital, hastily scheduled a round of interviews with ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC Friday evening in order to respond to the attacks. While the headlines to emerge from these interviews have mainly dealt with Gov. Romney’s demand for an apology from President Obama, a comparison of these interviews is instructive in a variety of ways.
From a political standpoint, the repetition of themes in these interviews provides a window into the messages that Gov. Romney wants to deliver. The most practical takeaway is that he would like very much to move the goalposts on his involvement with Bain Capital between 1999 and 2002. While his declaration on a federal disclosure form read “Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way,” Romney stressed, in each of these interviews, that he had no management responsibilities.
On that score, NBC News’ Peter Alexander does the best job of pressing Romney on that point, asking him to state categorically that he attended no meetings involving Bain, or its entities. Romney carefully replied that he couldn’t “recall” any such meetings, but continued to stress that he had no management responsibilities. That qualifier, that he doesn’t “recall” any meetings, is volunteered in several of the other interviews.
In several of the interviews, Romney also asserts that “there’s nothing wrong” with being associated with Bain Capital during those years, but that he simply wasn’t there. ABC News’ Jonathan Karl zeroed in on that, asking “So you don’t disavow what happened at the company, that they may have done things that were wrong, not wrong that you had nothing to do with. Would there be something with being associated with Bain Capitol during those years?”
Romney tellingly evaded that question, responding “I had no association with the management of Bain Capitol after February of 1999. That is when I left the firm. I am very pleased with the experience I had with the firm but as everyone knows I went on to run the Olympics for three years I was there full time after that I came back and ran in Massachusetts for governor. I had no role with regards to Bain Capital after February 1999.”
He also repeats the “Kill Romney” lie that his campaign made up, most explicitly to CNN’s Jim Acosta, attributing the quote to “one of (the Obama campaign’s) insiders.” Acosta was also the only interviewer to ask Romney about his 2002 testimony regarding his residency status, but missed his membership to the board of Lifelike Dolls, which, unlike Staples, was still a Bain entity at the time.
Time will tell how this works out for Romney. Conventional wisdom says that while negative ads work, they also turn voter off. Romney is betting that playing the victim won’t turn them off more.
Finally, every interviewer asked Romney about Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter‘s remark that Romney either lied to the SEC, and committed a felony, or lied to the American people. While Romney demanded an apology in his ABC News interview, none of these interviewers pointed out that the source of Cutter’s quote was the same fact-checkers that Romney marshaled in his defense. FactCheck.org said, long before Cutter ever did, that “If the Obama campaign is correct, then Romney is guilty of lying on official federal disclosure forms, committing a felony.”
Here are the interviews Mitt Romney gave Friday evening, in full where available:
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