NBC's Lauer to Romney: 'Are You Proud of the Campaign You're Running so Far?'

In a live interview with Mitt and Ann Romney on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer fretted over the "very negative" presidential race and wondered: "Are you proud of the campaign you're running so far? Is this the campaign you'd like to run?"

Romney responded: "I'm very proud of the fact that my campaign is focused on the economy. It's focused on my vision for what I do to get more jobs for America. And about the President's-" Lauer interrupted: "And what President Obama has done wrong with the economy." Lauer pressed: "Do you think your campaign has been less negative than the Obama campaign?"

In his next line of questioning, Lauer continued to cast doubt on Romney's tax records: "...why not call an accountant and say, 'Look, let's make this simple, let's take away any of the drama, let's make it incredibly transparent so as not give my opponents any ammunition.' Why didn't you do that?" Romney replied in part: "My guess is if you decide to do more and more and more, you just give, if you will, the opposition a chance to distort and twist and be dishonest about more material."

Lauer followed up: "So you don't think you've raised more questions than you've answered in releasing the amount of information you have to date?" Romney reiterated: "We've laid out all that's required by law and then some, the same as John McCain. And we just don't want to give the DNC more things for them to pick at, distort in the way they have already."

In a Wednesday interview, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams went so far as to suggest Romney didn't pay his taxes: "People hear he's not going to release the rest of his returns and they wonder why. They wonder, is there a year there where he paid no taxes? They wonder about expensive horses and houses....what is it that is preventing you from releasing the rest of your returns?"


Here is a portion of Lauer's July 27 interview with the Romneys:

7:13AM ET

LAUER: Let's get to some comments you made since you've been here, Governor Romney. You said that you were a little bit concerned with all the security issues, you called the preparations "disconcerting" here in London, questioned perhaps, whether Londoners would turn out. It drew a turse response from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said the following, quote, "We're holding an Olympic games in one of the busiest, most active bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere." Obviously it seems like a direct reference to your organizing the games in Salt Lake back in 2002. What's your response?

ROMNEY: I don't see that. I read the same reports, I think, a lot of people did about all the challenges that were being faced by the organizing committee. But after being here a couple of days, it looks to me like London is ready. And of course it is hard to put on games in a major metropolitan area. And what they've done that I find so impressive, is they took the venues and put them right in the city. People – you're going to be able to be on the back side of 10 Downing Street for beach volleyball, for instance.

LAUER: Are you being a good politician, are you backing off a little bit? Because if you look at the papers here in London this morning, Governor Romney, you're everywhere and they're all saying things about this comment.

ROMNEY: You know, I'm absolutely convinced that the people here are ready for the games. And in just a few moments, all the things politicians say will get swept away because the athletes finally take the stage. The games are about the athletes. That's why the games, virtually anywhere they've been, have been highly successful.

LAUER: So let's talk about the presidential race. It seems a lot of people are worried, Governor, that already it's very negative, and I mean on both sides, alright? It seems like one wave of negative ads after another. Are you proud of the campaign you're running so far? Is this the campaign you'd like to run?

ROMNEY: I'm very proud of the fact that my campaign is focused on the economy. It's focused on my vision for what I do to get more jobs for America. And about the President's-

LAUER: And what President Obama has done wrong with the economy.

ROMNEY: And the problems with his – with his having managed the economy. That's what my campaign is focused on. The differences between us both on such an important issue. His campaign has taken a different tack and he's able to do whatever he'd like to do. But I'm going to keep battling about, I think, the issue people care most about, getting America working again.

LAUER: Do you think your campaign has been less negative than the Obama campaign?

ROMNEY: I don't know that I can measure item by item. But I can tell you what we're focused on is not personal attacks, but instead, we're focusing on policy differences and where we think the President may have gone wrong, where we think we can do better.

LAUER: Let's – you've mentioned the economy. Let's talk, for a second, about your own personal economy. I don't have to tell you how much air time and ink has been dedicated to your taxes, your investments, and things like that over the last couple of months. I'm not going to go through the minutiae of what tax information you've released. But here is my question, knowing that you're running for president, and have been for six years, why not call an accountant and say, "Look, let's make this simple, let's take away any of the drama, let's make it incredibly transparent so as not give my opponents any ammunition." Why didn't you do that?

ROMNEY: Well, we just laid out exactly what is required by law, which is all of our financial statements, and then, in addition, two years of tax reports, just like John McCain put out. So we looked at what he did, we've done the same thing. It's hundreds of pages of documents. And my guess is if you decide to do more and more and more, you just give, if you will, the opposition a chance to distort and twist and be dishonest about more material.

LAUER: So you don't think you've raised more questions than you've answered in releasing the amount of information you have to date?

ROMNEY: We've laid out all that's required by law and then some, the same as John McCain. And we just don't want to give the DNC more things for them to pick at, distort in the way they have already.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC