Update 2:40p.m. ET: Hilary Rosen publicly apologized for her "poorly chosen words." "I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended," Rosen said in a widely-reported statement Thursday. "Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."
Ann Romney went on Fox News Thursday to rebut claims from Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, that the wife of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee "has actually never worked a day in her life."
"My career choice was to be a mother. And I think all of us need to know that we need to respect choices that women make," Romney said.
Rosen said on CNN Wednesday night that Romney couldn't relate to regular women because she didn't need to work while raising her five children. Rosen also called Mitt Romney "old-fashioned" when it comes to women and someone who doesn't "see us as equals." The Republican National Committee called her statements "an affront to mothers everywhere."
"I know what it's like to struggle and maybe I haven't struggled as much financially as some people have, but I can tell you that I've had struggles in my life," Ann Romney said Thursday. "I would love to have people understand that Mitt and I have compassion for people that are struggling and that's why we're running." Ann Romney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and is also a breast cancer survivor.
Romney said her husband respects and is advised by women, including his former chief of staff and lieutenant governor when he led Massachusetts. "Mitt Romney is a person that admires women and listens to them," she said.
Democratic operatives immediately sought to distance themselves from Rosen. "She's not an adviser to the DNC—the DNC's contract for media services is exclusively with Anita Dunn," Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse wrote in an email to reporters. Rosen works for the same consulting firm as Dunn.
But Republicans reject that claim. On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Romney supporter Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state said Rosen's firm has been paid by the campaign and that Rosen has long been directly involved in campaign efforts. She is serving as a "paid spokesperson" for the campaign, supporters said on the call. "She's visited the White House 35 times," Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming added.
The Republican National Committee on Thursday called on DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to "immediately apologize" on behalf of Rosen. "To suggest that any mother has 'never worked a day in her life' is an affront to mothers everywhere," the committee said.
High-profile Democrats have joined with Republicans to publicly reject Rosen's comments. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina publicly called on Rosen to apologize, and campaign strategist David Axelrod condemned the comments, branding them as "inappropriate" and "offensive" via Twitter.
President Barack Obama is leading Mitt Romney among women, who tend to lean Democratic, by a wide margin in public opinion polls. To close the gap, the Romney campaign "has devised a three-pronged strategy, which it finalized Tuesday night," the New York Times reports. "They will try to debunk the notion that Mr. Romney's policies have hurt women, turn the criticism back on Mr. Obama and outline how they believe women have suffered under his administration, and brand those issues in a memorable way."
The Romney campaign doubled down on that attack line on Thursday's conference call featuring female members of Congress and other female Romney supporters. "Women have faced massive job losses under this administration," Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire told reporters on the call.
Several participants on the call used Rosen's comments to further discredit Democratic claims of a GOP "war on women." (Democrats cite recent congressional actions on contraception, state-level efforts to ban abortions without prior ultrasounds, and Romney's pledge to end Planned Parenthood as ways Republicans are hurting women.)
"There's no war on women by Republicans; what's really going on is a war on reality by the Democrats," McMorris Rodgers said.
Rachel Rose Hartman contributed to this story.
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