Obama team tries to quell Cory Booker controversy

Honoree Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark attends the 2011 Emery Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on November 10, 2011 in New York, City. Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Macy's

Cory Booker
Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Macy's

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

(CBS News) Two days after Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a surrogate for President Obama's re-election team, criticized the campaign's anti-Bain attacks against Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign is still on defense over the issue.

On Sunday, Booker referred to the negative ads -- as well as negative campaigning from conservatives -- as "nauseating."

After Booker released a follow-up, four-minute YouTube video to explain his point of view -- and remark that it's reasonable for the Obama team to scrutinize Romney's record at the private equity firm -- Republicans suggested that Booker was pressured to do so by the campaign. "Obama clamping down on @corybooker shows that democrats are no longer allowed to defend free market," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus tweeted.

On MSNBC Monday, Booker said, "I certainly did talk with campaign officials, but they didn't force me to do anything." The Obama campaign, however, says Booker spoke with an official from the Democratic National Committee, not a member of the re-election campaign.

"As Mayor Booker has said, the campaign did not reach out and ask him to record a video," Obama campaign spokesperson Ben LaBolt said in a statement. "Campaign officials also had not reached out directly to Mayor Booker yesterday, but he spoke with a DNC official who also did not ask him to record a video. He reaffirmed, as he has stated publicly, that he believed that a discussion of Mitt Romney's private sector record is necessary given that he has made it the central premise of his candidacy but has falsely claimed that his goal was job creation, not profit maximization for himself and his partners."

Republicans, meanwhile, continue to zero in on Booker's original remarks, charging that Mr. Obama is attacking "free enterprise."

Asked to address that charge, LaBolt told reporters Monday, "We're not questioning the purpose of the private equity business as a whole, or Romney's capacity to run a business as he saw fit. We're questioning what the values and lessons are from that experience and whether the economic philosophy that he demonstrated while he was a corporate buyout specialist is one that Americans would like to see in the Oval Office."

Booker, for his part, told MSNBC Monday that Republicans were manipulating his words. "I'm very upset that I'm being used by the GOP this way," he said.

One of Romney's own surrogates, former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, told reporters Tuesday that Romney's record at Bain is "fair game" for the Obama camp. However, he added that the Obama campaign has been "cherry-picking" facts about the Bain record.

"So if he is going to, as he said the other day, if the campaign is going to be his discussions about Bain and his cherry-picking of the investments Bain made that didn't work out, then the American public will join Booker... in being embarrassed, nauseated and disappointed at this presidency," Sununu said.

Other politicians, meanwhile, continue to weigh in. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., charged that Romney was involved in "raping companies" with Bain, while former Pensylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, said the Obama ads are "disappointing" but that "Bain is fair game."

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