VIRGINIA BEACH — In his sharpest terms yet, President Obama said Friday that Republican Mitt Romney must explain when he led Bain Capital and why his previous statements don’t match federal securities records.

 “Ultimately Mr. Romney, I think, is going to have to answer those questions, because if he aspires to being president, one of the things you learn is, you are ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations,” Obama said in an interview with WLJA after a campaign appearance in Virginia Beach. He continued: “That’s probably a question that he’s going to have to answer and I think that’s a legitimate part of the campaign.”

At issue is when Romney left Bain Capital and whether he is responsible for investments the private-equity company made in companies responsible for shipping jobs overseas. The Obama campaign has been criticizing Romney sharply for Bain’s work with outsourcing companies, and one of Romney’s defenses has been that he left the company in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics.

News reports have surfaced, however, of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that list Romney as the chief executive of Bain Capital for several years after 1999. The Romney campaign and Bain Capital have said those filings reflect the complexity of Romney’s divestment from Bain and are not evidence that he was, in fact, still in charge.

“Here's what I know,” Obama told WJLA’s Scott Thuman. “We were just talking about responsibility. And as president of the United States, it's pretty clear to me that I'm responsible for folks who are working in the federal government. And you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you.”

The interview was planned to be released on Sunday. The Obama campaign released excerpts Friday, however, after Romney scheduled a blitz of television interviews with the national networks to defend the charges about Bain.