Irwin, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Mitt Romney's national campaign co-chair John Sununu apologized Tuesday afternoon for saying he wished President Barack Obama would "learn how to be an American" earlier in the day.
Appearing on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," Sununu said he regretted using those words on a campaign conference call.
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"I'm apologizing for using those words," said Sununu. "I did say those words that were there and, frankly, I made a mistake."
Sununu said his point was to criticize Obama for failing as an economic leader and creating a toxic environment for businesses.
"I was making the point that in America, entrepreneurs deserve credit and there is an American formula for creating jobs," said Sununu. "I don't apologize for the idea that this president has demonstrated that he does not understand how jobs are created in America. He thinks that jobs are created by giving grants to your cronies, to your bundlers and your contributors, like he did with Solyndra."
The earlier conference call with reporters came as the Republican presidential candidate continued to battle attacks from Democrats over Romney's business career and tax returns. It also featured heated comments from a group of small business owners, one of whom likened Obama's economic policies to "socialism."
Sununu responded to the characterization in his CNN interview, saying he does not think Obama is a socialist but "he created a feeling among entrepreneurs that he's not a capitalist."
Despite the apology, Sununu continued to bash Obama's economic record.
Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire who is known for being a reliable and colorful attack dog, criticized Obama for his so-called "cheek by jowl" relationship with donors in the initial conference call. Continuing a line of attack pursued by Romney Monday, Sununu accused Obama of steering government loans to political friends.
"He thinks that jobs are created by giving grants to your cronies, to your bundlers and your contributors, like he did with Solyndra. Like he did with Vista (ph), like he did with the wind projects that took jobs out of this country," Sununu told Blitzer. "The common denominator is that they all had owners and investors that were bundlers and contributors to his campaign."
In the call earlier, Sununu revived an attack from the 2008 campaign over Obama's relationship with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, and tied the president to the notorious sphere of Chicago politics.
"He comes out of that that murky world in Chicago where politician and felon has become synonymous," he said. "It is an area where Tony Rezko is a convicted felon and is in prison, and just happened to be a guy that did a smarmy real estate deal with the president, where Rezko pays top dollar and the president pays a discount and the deal is able to be done."
Sununu also charged on the call the president "has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions."
"The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build their businesses from the ground up is how our economy became the envy of the world," Sununu said. "It is the American way, and I wish this president would learn how to be an American."
Asked on the call by a reporter to clarify his comment, Sununu said he had meant to criticize Obama's understanding of the American way of doing business.
"The president has to learn the American formula for creating business," he said.
Responding to Sununu's comments, Obama's campaign declared Team Romney had "officially gone off the deep end."
"The question is what else they'll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith wrote in a statement. "This meltdown and over-the-top rhetoric won't make things better – it only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation."
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