April 12th, 2012
04:30 PM ET
3 years ago

Democrat apologizes for Ann Romney comments amid firestorm

(CNN) – Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen apologized on Thursday for her Wednesday comment about Ann Romney after the controversy went viral and drew bipartisan criticism on Twitter.

"I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended," Rosen, a Democratic operative and CNN contributor, said in a statement. "Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."

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Rosen generated bipartisan criticism Wednesday night for her statement that Romney has "actually never worked a day in her life."

On CNN's "The Situation Room" Thursday, she said, "I hope Ms. Romney knows that I didn't mean it personally," and called the criticism of her typical "politics."

"The Republicans slammed and came at this pretty quickly. People who know me know that I didn't intend that. But my words were not very good, you know, if they want to play politics with it, that's fine."

Earlier on Thursday, she said the conversation shouldn't be about working moms versus stay-at-home moms, but rather about creating economic opportunity.

"This is not about Ann Romney," Rosen said on CNN. "This is about the waitress in a diner in some place in Nevada who has two kids whose day care funding is being cut off because of the Romney/Ryan budget and she doesn't know what to do."

Republicans were attacking her to divert attention from policies that negatively impacted women and reflected "Republican's desire to change the subject," she said.

"I think the issue that I'm focusing on is does Mitt Romney have a vision for bringing women up economically, and can he himself stop referring to his wife as his economic surrogate? That's an important thing. He's the one that keeps doing this. Not me," Rosen continued.

Rosen made her original comments on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Wednesday.

"What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country, saying, 'Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing.' Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life," Rosen said on CNN.

"She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority off the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future," Rosen continued, adding that Romney "just seems so old fashioned when it comes to women."

The reaction from high level politicos was instant and virtually unanimous: Rosen had gone too far. And by Thursday afternoon, the Republican National Committee was fundraising off of the comment.

Responding to the comments, Ann Romney argued Thursday that her "career choice" was to be a mother.

"Other women make other choices to have a career and raise a family which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful," Romney said on Fox News. "But you know there are other people that have a choice. We have to respect women in all those choices that they made."

She initially responded Thursday night, launching her own Twitter account with her first tweet saying, "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

Rosen's comments drew instant criticism from campaign advisers on both sides of the aisle, as well as one of Romney's sons.

Josh Romney posted on Twitter that his mother "is one of the smartest, hardest working woman I know. Could have done anything with her life, chose to raise me." Another Romney son, Tagg, echoed his mother's comments by "re-tweeting" them.

First lady Michele Obama's Twitter feed on Thursday read, "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected."

Campaigning in New Hampshire on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden was asked if Rosen's comments went too far.

"Absolutely. Absolutely," he said.

David Axelrod, the senior adviser to President Barack Obama's reelection bid, distanced the campaign from the comments on Twitter.

"Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive," Axelrod wrote.

Rosen said Thursday, "Whatever David Axelrod says is fine with me."

Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter posted, "Families must be off limits on campaigns, and I personally believe stay at home moms work harder than most of us do."

Several press aides to Romney's campaign - Andrea Saul, Ryan Williams, and Amanda Henneberg - posted links tying Obama to Rosen, such as her appointment as a DNC adviser and her appearance at a White House event.

According to Obama's campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt, Rosen does not have a formal role on the president's reelection campaign. Melanie Roussell, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, also said Rosen had no formal role at the organization.

Romney campaign strategist Eric Fehrnstrom wrote, "Obama adviser Hilary Rosen goes on #CNN to debut their new "kill Ann" strategy, and in the process insults hard-working moms."

A fundraising email from the RNC invited supporters to buy a travel mug marked with the words "Moms Do Work" and "Vote GOP."

"As someone who has experience being both a stay-at-home mom and a working mother, I can tell you that being a mom is the most important job there is," RNC co-chairwoman Sharon Day wrote in the message. "It's certainly challenging, but it's also extremely rewarding and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Eric Erickson, a CNN political contributor and editor of a conservative website, appeared on the same panel as Rosen, and tweeted, "If raising 5 sons through breast cancer and MS isn't a real job, I'm not sure what is."

The comment drew criticism from a Republican member of Congress, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, who posted, "Wrong. Being a mom is a full-time job."

Also see:

Obama ahead in New Jersey, even with Christie on ticket

Florida Rep labels congressional Democrats as Communists

Barbour won't formally endorse Romney, but offers advice


Filed under: 2012 • Ann Romney
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Joe

    My mother stayed at home with 7 of us, one of the seven Down’s syndrome. She worked her butt off. But this comment was made in reference to experience in the work place and her ability to assist in balancing our nation’s budget. She is not qualified for this but for that matter either is multimillionaire Mitt! Knows how to make himself rich and many of his decisions that made him rich were at the cost of the middle class.

    April 12, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Publius Novus

    Somehow, I never looked at raising my sons as a job. I thought it was a gift from God.

    April 12, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. Bill Clay

    The point people are missing is the fact that most women don't have the economic freedom to be stay at home Moms. My wife would have loved to stay at home with our children, but we couldn't afford to raise a family with only one parent working. The US economic climate forces both parents to work whether they want to or not, unless you are well off like Mrs. Romney.

    April 12, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  4. Sunny D

    I am a democrat and a mom who works outside of the home. Whoever says that a stay-at-home mom has never worked a day in her life has never been a stay-at-home mom. Not a good one, anyway. (I hate when deocrats make me defend republicans.)

    April 12, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  5. cartboy6

    Shouldn't Ms. Rosen have started at the top with our Commander in Chief when bellyaching about people that haven't had real jobs in their pasts. Hope that size 8 leather tastes good.

    April 12, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. Michael

    I believe Rosen was not speaking against stay at home moms, I believe she was saying Mitt Romney is very wealthy and his wife Ann did not work because of that reason. Ann Romney had a choice. The reality is, there are a lot of middle class and lower class stay at home moms because daycare is more than their yearly salaries. That is the big disconnect. Ann Romney should not comment on things she reads about and not expericened personally.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  7. CGDoc

    Thanks Hilary! We can use that sounbite in October and November for sure.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  8. Mike

    Please spare me the rhetoric. "Oh, I was a stay-at-home mom, it was soooo much work". I am a single dad that has custody of his 3 kids half the time and works a full time job while paying out a massive amount of money to my deadbeat ex in child support. Two halves of my life, and guess which one is not only easier, but far more enjoyable and fulfilling?

    The fact of the matter is that Mitt and Ann Romney are rich, white, and privileged, and will NEVER have even the slightest inkling of what life is like for the majority of Americans.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  9. liz

    Ann Romney is correct raising children is hard work but it's way way easier when your husband is a billionaire and you have NO money problems, nanny's and household staff, private schools and can NEVER have to rob Peter to pay Paul.
    I think/hope Americans are waking up to just how destructive the Teapublican/GOP really is.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. The REAL Truth.. (not the imposter)

    Here we go again, more right wing rhetoric. Attack the person not the comment....
    Rosen was CORRECT!. She didn't say Ann Romney didn't work hard, but that she "actually never worked a day in her life". Work – in economic terms, usually means working OUTSIDE the home. Being a stay-at-home mom, is admirable – and a lot of HARD work, I AGREE. Nice to have the stay-at-home choice tho'... which many women do NOT !

    However, those who work outside the home STILL have to deal with EVERYTHING Ann did (as work) including raising their kids, cleaning, cooking all the while WORKING outside the home! Now THAT IS a job, and nothing Ann has had to EVER deal with. She could not possibly understand the challenges facing a "both working" family – who has to pay for day care to be able to work and put FOOD on the table, shuttle kids around, keep a job and career going, dealing with sick kids, homework, school, etc. – ALL WHILE spending 8 hrs (or more) a day, OUTSIDE the home.

    With all due respect, if Mitt is using Ann as his economic bell-weather, then we are all doomed from the get go. She has no CLUE – like Mitt – as to how real people actually live. Gotta go with Rosen on this one.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  11. crymore

    If you cannot afford kids.......don't have them.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  12. CCD08

    To say she's never worked a day in her life implies that she's lazy and doesn't understand hard work. Baloney. The fact is that Ann Romney could get a job if she so desired.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  13. Pat

    The fact that she's never worked a day in her life is not the point. She has no clue what the majority of women go through everyday to make ends meet. She made a choice to stay at home. She is blessed to be able to make that choice. The majority of us women have no choice. We have to work or our families go under.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  14. Paul B

    Rosen's comments were inflamatory but fair, the Romney's are so far detatched from normal people that they can't get it, can't understand the issues that most people face. Cutter says that "families must be off limits" during campaigns but that's ridiculous and, in any event, Romney was using his wife to make points so it is reasonable that those points should be countered in the same way. I hope that Romney's people are as quick to criticize right wing commentators when they attack Mrs Obama, as they surely will.

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. denroy

    Funny how a democrat should raise paid employment as a 'good thing' when their whole ethos is to reward people who don't work...

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. Anonymous

    I do not believe this was an attack on Ann Romney, it is the truth she has not worked a day in her life and may not have the view of working American moms

    April 12, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  17. Laura

    Rosen is right, she has given Republicans a reason to change the subject. Because everyone loves a soundbite and a strategist should know that. She had an unfortunate choice of words. Ann Romney doesn't have to work; so no, she probably doesn't understand the nature of struggle. But I've had a career and been a stay-at-home mom so I can say that the debate about which is more valuable needs to stop. It devalues women and family. Working moms need support and at-home moms needs support.

    April 12, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  18. Ronnie12345

    this is stupid i agree that family should be not a target but the point of this is many middle class moms with 5 kids don't live and life of like Ann Romney does and people like that can't relate to regular citizens so yes I get the point but others will twist the comment

    April 12, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  19. Mike

    This isn't Faux anger, but wow is this dismissive of Rosen about the endless task of being a mom. Lots of OT, no pay.

    April 12, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. odk1

    sorry republicans,it seems desperate to use every tool to get women on mitt side, nice shot but this would not work.

    April 12, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  21. wolfpackbob

    Rosen will be thrown under the bus just like Reverend Wright.

    April 12, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  22. chuckb

    Defense of Ann Romney as a stay at home, homemaking mom are ludicrous. Why does she need two Cadillacs then? Where does she drive to in them? Is it to the kids soccer games and school conferences or to social meetings at the country club? People in the Romney’s income bracket hire people to look after and educate their kids. And, yes, she doesn't have a clue what it means to be a stay at home, nurturing mother anymore than she has as to what it takes to be a working mom that still has parental responsibilities. Lower middle class and working class mothers have jobs to be able to pay health insurance and save for their kids educations more than they do to buy new clothes or Cadillacs.

    April 12, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  23. edpeters101

    OK, probably should have expected a firestorm for making the comment about never working, but she was indicating that getting advice about working women from a person who hasn't been in the work place isn't very credible! I have no problem with Mitt's wife being a stay at home mom (she should probably be at home now), but she is on the campaign trail and apparently saying things (according to Mitt) with nothing to back them up. Doesn't Mitt have any women on his campaign staff that could offer some insight into the plight of working women, or is he incapable of holding a conversation with them? YMMV

    April 12, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  24. Daniel Willington

    What was the last paying job Ann had?
    Is having children a choice?
    Is having to make money to survive a choice?
    What does Ann's resume look like?
    Does Mitt Romney have a plan for bringing up the increasing single-parent family demographic economically?

    I WANT TO KNOW.

    April 12, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. Bookldy209

    Even an often Democratic supporter like myself takes huge exception to this thoughtless comment. My work has always been part-time as an editor – and sometimes not at all – so that my husband could pursue a career that provided for us all AND someone was making sure the kids were okay. My husband of 32 years would also be the first to tell you as he does me that he couldn't have done it without me holding down the fort.

    April 12, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
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