August 20th, 2012
05:25 PM ET
(CNN) – Pressed on the recent barrage of negative television ads, charged rhetoric from his top surrogates, and a blatantly misleading ad from a Super PAC run by former White House aides, President Barack Obama on Monday disputed suggestions he is running an overly negative campaign.
“If you look at the overall trajectory of our campaign, and the ads that I have approved and are produced by my campaign, you'll see that we point out sharp differences between the candidates, but we don't go out of bounds,” Obama said during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room – his first question-and-answer-session with national reporters since June.
“I feel very comfortable with the fact that when you look at the campaign we're running, we are focused on the issues and the differences that matter to working families all across America, and that's exactly the kind of debate the American people deserve,” Obama added.
“I don't think that Governor Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad,” Obama said. “But keep it mind, this is an ad that I didn't approve, I did not produce, and as far as I can tell has barely run. I think it ran once. “
Obama also contrasted that ad with one run by the Romney campaign regarding the president’s stance toward welfare, which CNN and other news outlets have also deemed to be misleading.
“The truth of the matter is you can't just make stuff up. That's one thing you learn as president of the United States,” Obama said. “You get called into account. And I feel very comfortable with the fact that when you look at the campaign we're running, we are focused on the issues and the differences that matter to working families all across America, and that's exactly the kind of debate the American people deserve.
Obama’s surprise appearance occurred while press secretary Jay Carney was conducting his daily briefing with reporters.
“Jay tells me that you guys have been missing me,” the president said to laughter. “So I thought I'd come by and just say hello.
In fact, Obama hasn't conducted a full press conference in more than 10 weeks, though he has given several interviews to outlets that are traditionally more friendly, such as People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight.
Also Monday, Obama insisted that attacks on rival Mitt Romney’s failure to release more than two years of tax returns is fair game.
“For us to say that it makes sense to release your tax returns, as I did, as John McCain did, as Bill Clinton did, as the two President Bushes did, I don't think is in any way out of bounds,” he said.
Obama maintained his campaign has never suggested Romney has illegally skirted taxes, but said Americans have a right to know how the wealthy former Massachusetts governor “manages [his] tax obligations.”
“[Voters] would find that relevant information, particularly when we're going into a time where we know we're going to have to make tough choices both about spending and about taxes,” Obama said.
Romney released his 2010 income tax return and an estimate of his 2011 return when he filed for an extension. Romney also told reporters at a press conference last week that he's paid an effective tax rate of 13% for the past decade, calling the interest in his tax returns "very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face."