Transcript: President Obama on Mitt Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns

Edited by Jenny Jiang

*Excerpt from press briefing held on Aug. 20, 2012

Transcript of President Barack Obama’s comments* on Mitt Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns:


“You said that one of the reasons you wanted to see Mitt Romney’s tax returns was you want to see if everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  That actually goes to the question she asked, which is this implication, do you think there’s something Mitt Romney is not telling us in his tax returns that indicates he’s not playing by the same set of rules?”


“No.  There’s a difference between playing by the same sets of rules and doing something illegal.  And in no way have we suggested the latter.  But the first disclosure, the one year of tax returns that he disclosed indicated that he used Swiss bank accounts, for example.  Well, that may be perfectly legal, but I suspect if you ask the average American, do you have one and is that part of how you manage your tax obligations, they would say no.  They 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.

“So I think the idea that this is somehow exceptional, that there should be a rationale or a justification for doing more than the very bare minimum has it backwards.  I mean, the assumption should be you do what previous presidential candidates did, dating back for decades.  And Governor Romney’s own dad says, well, the reason I put out 10 or 12 years is because any single year might not tell you the whole story.  And everybody has, I think, followed that custom ever since.

“The American people have assumed that if you want to be President of the United States, that your life is an open book   when it comes to things like your finances.  I’m not asking him to disclose every detail of his medical records — although we normally do that as well — (laughter.)  You know?  I mean, this isn’t sort of overly personal here, guys.  This is pretty standard stuff.  I don’t think we’re being mean by asking him to do what every other presidential candidate has done — right?  It’s what the American people expect.”


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