HILLIARD, Ohio--President Barack Obama accused Mitt Romney on Friday of "massaging the facts" over a TV ad the GOP challenger produced that insinuated Chrysler was making plans to send Jeep manufacturing jobs to China.
"When you try to change the facts just because it's convenient to your campaign, that's not change.Trying to massage facts, that's not change," Obama told a lively crowd of about 2,800 supporters here at the Franklin County Fairgrounds.
"We've been seeing this out of Gov. Romney and his friends over the last few weeks right here in Ohio," the president continued. "You've got folks that work at the Jeep plant who've been calling their employers worried, asking, Is it true? Are our jobs being shipped to China? And the reason they're making these calls is because Gov. Romney's been running an ad that says so. They said, That's not true. Everybody knows that's not true. The car companies have told Gov. Romney to knock it off."
The Romney campaign ad in question says Obama "took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China," suggesting that the president's policies will result in Chrysler closing an Ohio Jeep plant. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne called the claim "inaccurate" and said there were no plans to transition the manufacturing operations currently in place overseas.
The Obama campaign responded swiftly to the ad when it first aired last weekend and Vice President Joe Biden called it "an outrageous lie," but this is the first time Obama has mentioned it directly at a campaign rally.
In a statement, Romney's campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg defended the commercial.
"President Obama took the auto companies into bankruptcy," Henneberg said. "His mismanagement of the process has exposed taxpayers to a $25 billion loss. And these companies are expanding production overseas."
Ohio is considered one of the most important battleground states in this election cycle, one that could determine the outcome of the race and where one in eight jobs is tied to the auto industry. The Obama campaign has focused much of its messaging on attacking Romney for opposing federally-backed loans to struggling auto companies during the recession before undergoing a managed bankruptcy.
"I understand that Gov. Romney's had a tough time in Ohio because he was against saving the auto industry," Obama said Friday. "And it's hard to run away from that position when you're on videotape saying the words, 'Let Detroit go bankrupt.'"
"He's a liar!" a man in the crowd shouted, leading others to shout "Liar! Liar!"
"You don't scare hardworking Americans just to scare up some votes," Obama added. "That's not what being president's all about."