Mitt Romney, with wife Ann, who was targeted by remarks from Democratic… (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- Following the first lady and senior members of the Obama campaign, the White House spokesman on Thursday tried to distance the president from the comments of a Democratic strategist who dismissed the work of stay-at-home mom Ann Romney.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that he hadn’t talked to President Obama about Hilary Rosen’s remark that the wife of likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney “hadn’t worked a day in her life.”
Still, Carney said: “I think we can all agree -- Democrats and Republicans -- that raising children is an extremely difficult job, and that is true for all mothers as well as fathers.”
Rosen, after initially standing by her comments Thursday morning, issued a statement of apology hours later.
"I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended," Rosen wrote. "As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen."
Carney would not characterize Rosen’s relationship with the White House or confirm how many times she has met with aides. White House visitor logs show 35 entries for someone named “Hilary Rosen.” Carney suggested those might include visits from someone with the same name.
“I know three, personally, women named Hilary Rosen, so I'm not sure that those represent the person we're talking about necessarily,” he said. “I don't know how to assess her overall relationship with people here in the White House. I have not seen her here very frequently.”
Rosen’s comments landed squarely in an already roiling debate over women’s issues. The battle has represented the first one-on-one face-off between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Obama, demonstrating how important female voters are to both campaigns.
The Obama campaign is particularly aiming to win over upper-middle-class suburban women, a group most likely turned off by Republicans’ recent focus on abortion and birth control access.
Romney has tried to change the subject to women’s economic status under the Obama administration and suggested his wife, who raised five boys, is his closest advisor on economic issues important to women.
In a CNN interview, Rosen argued that, as the wife of a multimillionaire, Ann Romney’s experience wasn’t typical of most working mothers. Her suggestion that Romney didn’t work sparked instant online rebuke.
Top officials in the Obama campaign immediately declared their disapproval. Michelle Obama, who studiously avoids sensitive political issues, weighed in.
“Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected,” she wrote on Twitter, signing the note “mo.”
After expressing a similar sentiment, Carney tried to pick up where the Obama camp had left off: “We should also focus on where we disagree,” he said, listing the Republican positions the White House argues will hurt women.
Republicans in Congress opposed provisions in Obama’s jobs bill that would have offered aid to states to hire more teachers. The Republican budget, which Romney has endorsed, would cut funding for programs that support low-income women and children, including Head Start, the Women, Infants and Children program, and supplemental nutritional aid for pregnant mothers, Carney said.