(CNN) - Senate Democrats on Monday blasted former CIA Director Michael Hayden for charging that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein was motivated by “deep emotional feeling” when she approved a report critical of the CIA’s harsh treatment of detainees after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“Gen. Hayden condescendingly accused Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of being too emotional,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a floor speech. “She has been fearless. She has been thorough and fair. And for this man to say that because she criticizes tactics led by Gen. Hayden - that was torture - she is being too emotional? I don’t think so.”
Reid’s vocal support for Feinstein, one of the most senior women in the Senate, came on the same day Democrats began debating an issue that appeals to women –paycheck fairness legislation that supporters say would even the income gap between men and women.
The legislation, which is opposed by most Republicans, is a key part of the Democrats’ political agenda this election year. They are in danger of losing control of the Senate and want to motivate women voters to go to the polls.
“Does this sound like a person or party that respects women?” Reid asked.
Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado who is up for re-election and sits on the Intelligence Committee, issued a statement calling Hayden’s remark a “baseless smear” that was “beyond the pale.”
“I highly doubt he would call a male chairman too ‘emotional,’” said Udall.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, called Hayden's comments "outrageous."
"General Hayden unfortunately has a long history of misleading the American public – he did it on domestic surveillance when he was the head of the NSA, and he did it on torture when he was the CIA Director," the senator said in a statement.
In a television interview Sunday with Chris Wallace of Fox News, Hayden, who was CIA Director from 2006-09, cited a column about the CIA report written by David Ignatius of The Washington Post.
“He said Senator Feinstein wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American brutal program of detention would never again be considered or permitted,” Hayden said. “Now, that sentence, that motivation for this report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”
Last week, the Intelligence Committee voted to have the report declassified and released to the public. It’s not clear how long that will take.