(CNN) – Billionaire Joe Ricketts on Thursday rejected an ad proposal by high-profile Republicans billed as a provocative campaign against President Barack Obama that would run around the Democratic National Convention.
Earlier Thursday The New York Times reported Republican strategists were working with billionaire Ricketts to run commercials "linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr."
The president of the super PAC supported by Ricketts said he neither authored nor funded the proposal and that it was one of "several submitted" to the PAC by third-party vendors.
"It reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take," Brian Baker said in a statement. "Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a President this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally."
Strategic Perception, the ad company run by Fred Davis that was behind the Wright pitch, released a statement saying "The Ricketts family never approved it, and nothing has happened on it since the presentation."
Mitt Romney on Thursday renounced the potential ad strategy against President Barack Obama that would invoke Wright, in an interview and later at a press availability.
"I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign," Romney told members of the press after a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Florida. "I hope that our campaigns can respectfully be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America."
Romney noted his campaign would soon be out with a positive television advertisement, saying it would contrast with recent attacks from Obama's team hitting Romney for his tenure as chief executive of Bain Capital.
"That will come up, I think, in a couple of days," Romney said of the ad. "It will be a positive ad about the things I would do if I were president. It's contrasting with the president's ad, which came out, again, as a character assassination ad. My own view is that, you know, we can talk about a lot of things, but the centerpiece of his campaign is quite clearly character assassination, and the centerpiece of my campaign is going to be my vision to get America working again and provide a better vision for our kids."
Asked what "character assassination" meant, Romney pointed to the Bain attacks, saying they were an attempt to "characterize me in a way that isn't accurate."
Romney's remarks followed his campaign's response, which included a call for election civility, after which Obama's campaign accused Romney of "reacting tepidly to the information."
Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said "Unlike the Obama campaign, Gov. Romney is running a campaign based on jobs and the economy, and we encourage everyone else to do the same."
"It's clear President Obama's team is running a campaign of character assassination. We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so,'" Rhoades added.
Obama's 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina said the reaction from Team Romney represented the Republican Party's shift to the right and toward "a hate-filled, divisive campaign."
"Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party," Messina said in a statement.
When asked about the Times report Thursday morning aboard his campaign plane, Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, said he had not yet read the papers.
Romney raised Rev. Wright earlier in the 2012 campaign cycle, when he questioned Obama's "philosophical leanings."
"I'm not sure which is worse, him listening to Rev. Wright or him saying that we must be a less Christian nation," Romney said on Sean Hannity's radio show in February.
When asked about the interview during the press conference Thursday, Romney said he didn't recall exactly what he said, but added "I stand by what I said, whatever it was."
Meanwhile, Democratic progressive organizations are organizing an "emergency conference call" to discuss the action in response to Ricketts, based on the Times report, according to a Democratic source.
When asked about the reports on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden said it proves "guys like that so misunderstand the state of the nation.
"The public is so far beyond that," Biden said during a stop in Washington, Pennsylvania. "I mean look, there are certain things that are sorta so morally clear and straight and straight-lined about it. You almost don't even wanna comment."
Wright made headlines during the 2008 campaign for his controversial race-related comments, comments then-GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain did not capitalize on as part of his White House bid.
Obama was forced to distance himself from his former reverend.
Strategists told the Times, the plan would "do exactly what John McCain would not let us do."
On Thursday, Steve Schmidt, McCain's 2008 campaign manager, told CNN the campaign decided not to use Obama's connection to Wright because "It wasn't useful. It would have backfired. And more importantly, it's wrong."
A current spokesman for McCain said the senior senator stands by his 2008 decision to leave Wright out of the campaign.
"Senator McCain is very proud of the campaign he ran in 2008," McCain communications director Brian Rogers told CNN. "He stands by the decisions he made during that race and would make them again today if he had it to do over."
In response to the news Bill Burton of Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supportive of the president, said there is an "ocean of Republican money coming right at President Obama - some of it dedicated to abject slime."
"Now is the time to fight back," he added in an email to supporters.
Ricketts, the founder and former CEO of TD Ameritrade whose family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team, has been particularly active in politics over the last few years. He, along with The Ending Spending Action Fund, the super PAC he supports, have backed candidates and causes dedicated to ending wasteful spending and special-interest earmarks. Recently, his PAC donated $250,000 to Deb Fischer's race for the GOP Senate nomination in Nebraska. Fischer captured the nomination in a come-from-behind victory.
- CNN's Jessica Yellin, Jim Acosta and Peter Hamby contributed to this report.