(CNN) – President Barack Obama said in an interview Tuesday he regretted the "syntax" of his remarks on small business that have been used ceaselessly by Republicans and formed the central theme of the GOP convention last week.
The so-called "you didn't build that" remark came in July during a campaign stop in Roanoke, Virginia. Obama said, "If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.
He continued, "There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the internet."
In the interview with Richmond-based WWBT that aired Wednesday, Obama said that while he regretted how he said those words, he did not regret what he meant by them.
"Obviously, I have regrets for my syntax," Obama said. "But not for the point, because everyone who was there watching knows exactly what I was saying."
Republicans struck upon Obama's remarks almost immediately, and Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has used the president's words in television commercials, campaign signage, stump speeches, and at last week's convention.
Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan invoked it in his acceptance speech last Wednesday, praising small business owners who show up "to open the door at 5 in the morning."
"Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them," Ryan said. "After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn't help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that."
Republicans, who portray the "you didn't build that" remark as a revealing slip that speaks to Obama's true feelings on the private sector, say even within context, the president's words are offensive to small business owners.
"The context is worse than the quote," Romney said in July. "The context, he says, you know, you think you've been successful because you're smart, but he says a lot of people are smart. You think you've been successful because you work hard, a lot of people work hard."
Andrea Saul, a Mitt Romney campaign spokeswoman, wrote in a statement that Obama's remarks on "syntax" only demonstrated further "just how out of touch he is with our nation's small-business owners."
CNN's Jim Acosta contributed to this report.