April 12th, 2012

Rosen apologizes for Ann Romney comments

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen appeared today on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer after her comments about Ann Romney sparked an uproar and a debate over women and the economy.

A full transcript of Hilary Rosen’s interview on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer is after the jump.

CNN POLITICAL TICKER: Rosen apologizes over comments against Ann Romney


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Happening now:  A furious political storm blows up after a Democratic strategist says that the mother of five, Ann Romney — quote — “never worked a day in her life.”  Hilary Rosen is here live this hour to explain what she meant about women, about work and about wealth — my interview with her coming up shortly.

George Zimmerman was out of sight for more than six weeks.  Now they will finally see him in front of the judge.  You will see him.  You will see the video as he faces a murder charge in the Trayvon Martin shooting.  We will learn what lies ahead.

And North Korea says its rocket is now ready to go.  That launch could come literally any minute now.  With neighboring countries on alert, we’re monitoring the launchpad in real time.

I’m Wolf Blitzer.  You’re in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Out of nowhere, seemingly, a huge political controversy erupts over women, and work and wealth.  It began with a Democratic activist’s sarcastic comment right here on CNN about Mitt Romney’s wife.  And Republicans now hope it will help Romney cut into Barack Obama’s big lead among female voters.

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen is here to explain her comments.  She’s standing by live.

But let’s get some background right now from our senior correspondent, Joe Johns.

Joe, tell us how this political storm erupted.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Wolf, it is certainly a great debate over working moms vs. stay-at-home moms.  But no matter what side you come down on, the speed with which this controversy took on a life of its own with all of the players weighing in on social media says a lot about how this could be a campaign like none other.


JOHNS (voice-over):  8:43 p.m. Eastern time, CNN contributor Hilary Rosen, a prominent Democratic strategist, on “ANDERSON COOPER 360” goes after Mitt Romney’s wife.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  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 am hearing.  Guess what?  His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.

She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we worry — and why we worry about their future.  I think, yes, it’s about these positions and, yes, I think there will be a war of words about the positions.

JOHNS:  Twitter lights up almost immediately and the future of American presidential campaigns is suddenly here.  At 10:07, the Romney campaign springs into action.  On Twitter, Romney’s message man Eric Fehrnstrom incorrectly labeling Rosen an Obama adviser accuses her of going on CNN to debut a new kill Ann strategy and in the process insulting working moms.

Now, like it or not, Rosen is a campaign issue.  Tweets are flying about the 35 times she visited the White House, the firm she works with that’s linked to other prominent Democrats.

At 10:11, Rosen tweets, “My point is that he, Romney, should stop saying she is his guide to women’s economic problems.”

At 10:18, Ann Romney herself weighs in.  Her Twitter account was set up some time ago, according to the campaign, but this was her first tweet directed at Hilary Rosen’s comments.  “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys.  Believe me, it was hard work.”

At 10:42, none other than the manager of the Obama reelection team tweets, distancing himself and his organization from Rosen.  “I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly.  Her comments were wrong and family should be off-limits.  She should apologize.”

At 10:58, Rosen is actually tweeting Ann Romney, no apology yet, but complimentary.  “Please, I admire you, but your husband shouldn’t say you are his expert on women and the economy.”

At 11:27, Josh Romney, one of their five sons, gets in the act, tweeting his mom “is one of the smartest, hardworking women I know, could have done anything with her life, chose to raise me.”

Thursday morning Hilary Rosen under fire was back on CNN still not backing down from her original point.

ROSEN:  This isn’t about whether Ann Romney or I or other women of some means can afford to make a choice to stay home and raise kids.  Most women in America, let’s face it, don’t have that choice.

They have to be working moms and home moms and that’s the piece that I am not hearing from the Romney camp.  Instead everybody is attacking me.  That’s fine.  Attack me, but it does not erase his woeful record on this issue.

JOHNS:  At 10:42 in the morning, Ann Romney was on FOX News.  In just 12 hours, the controversy had gone full-circle from cable news to social media and reemerged on TV with new power.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY:  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.  Other women make other choices to have a career and raise family, which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself.  I respect that.  That’s wonderful.

But, you know, there are other people that have a choice.  We have to respect women and all those choices that they make.

JOHNS:  At 12:00 noon, first lady Michelle Obama even tweets: “Every woman works hard and every woman deserves to be respected.”

By this time, the story has reached the protest that the on-camera White House briefing kicks off with a comment from the press secretary.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We can all agree, Democrats and Republicans, that raising children is an extremely difficult job.


JOHNS:  Of course, Hilary Rosen did apologize and you will have more on that in a minute, Wolf, but checking with Twitter, this controversy appears to have gotten up to almost 250 tweets a minute at its peak.

When you consider that Ann Romney wasn’t even active on Twitter until last night, she also got thousands of followers very quickly.  It’s pretty remarkable.

BLITZER:  It’s an amazing story when you think about how it unfolded.  Joe, thanks very much.

And Hilary Rosen is here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Hilary, thanks for coming in.

I see you smiling a little bit, but I don’t know why you’re smiling.

ROSEN:  Well, I’m smiling at sort of how crazy this all is, because, first of all, I have been a stay-at-home mom.

This is not a debate about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms.  I said this afternoon and I said it actually last night that what I meant was — had nothing to do on an attack on stay-at-home moms.  What I meant was that Mitt Romney is using his wife as an economic surrogate.  He himself said it.

And I just thought that that was off-base.  He needed more.  And I think that we are all sort of falling victim to this amazing crashing political machine in this campaign to move away from the real issues, which as I see it and saw it last night and still see it, is, does Mitt Romney really understand the struggles of women economically who are supporting their families, who are struggling in their jobs, who don’t have a job, who have been thrown off unemployment insurance, whose kids’ day care funding has been cut off or threatened to be cut off if the Romney-Ryan budget passes?

Those are the issues we should be talking about.

BLITZER:  But you said, Hilary, you said that Ann Romney — quote — “never worked a day in her life.”

ROSEN:  Yes.  And that was — look, I’m a mother, right?

Anybody who knows me knows that that’s not what I meant.  And I prefaced the comment by an economic comment.  I respect women and moms all the time.  I have fought my whole life for women to make choices, to have the choices that Ann Romney talked about.  I’m impressed that she defends them nicely.

I like that her kids are out there.  That’s not what this is about.  This is not a debate between working moms and stay-at-home moms.

BLITZER:  How should you have phrased what you wanted to say?  Because this was an awful way of saying it, because she’s not only a hardworking woman.  You know, raising five boys obvious is not easy, especially someone who has M.S., has breast cancer.  This is a wonderful woman.

And so how should you, if you could do a do-over…


ROSEN:  If I had the do-over, what I would be saying is that Mitt Romney should not be on the campaign trail saying to women, my wife tells me how it is for women out there, because people of wealth sometimes take for granted some of the niceties that they have in life.  And the Romneys are people of wealth.  She doesn’t just…


BLITZER:  All right, so look into the camera.  If Ann Romney is watching you right now, talk to her.

ROSEN:  Well, I said a few things this afternoon, but I will say it again.

Mrs. Romney, I applaud your decision to stay home and raise what are obviously five wonderful boys.  This is not about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms.  I think your husband needs to stand up for women’s economic struggles.  And, so far, we have not seen how he’s going to do that on the campaign trail.

This hasn’t come out of his mouth, and maybe it will at some point, but this is a distraction that his campaign is forcing on the American people to avoid his record on the issues.

BLITZER:  I didn’t hear an apology.

ROSEN:  Oh, well, I sent out an apology this afternoon.

BLITZER:  I didn’t hear you say to her just now an…


ROSEN:  I’m sorry.  Well, I assume that Mrs. Romney saw my apology this afternoon, but, if not, I apologize.

Working moms, stay-at-home moms, they’re both extremely hard jobs.  I know.  I have shared them both, and I’m sorry if that offended you.

BLITZER:  I want to put this clip — she was also — we heard a little bit of what she said on FOX earlier in the day.

ROSEN:  Yes.

BLITZER:  I will play this little clip right now.


ROMNEY:  If I get a chance, I want to tell you what women are telling me.

And Hilary needs to know this, because I have been on the campaign trail for one year.  And guess what women are talking about?  And I don’t care if they’re stay-at-home moms or they’re working mothers or they’re grandmothers.  Guess what they’re all talking about?

They’re talking about jobs, and they’re talking about the legacy of debt that we’re leaving our children.  That’s what I’m hearing.  And that’s what we’re talking about here.


BLITZER:  She makes a fair point there.

ROSEN:  She does make a fair point.  I do think that’s what women care about.

And when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts — let’s go back further.  When Mitt Romney ran Bain Capital, his record of hiring women was terrible.  Fewer than 10 percent of the senior executives at the company were women.  There have been — and he actually went on the record and said, well, I just couldn’t find qualified women to serve in these positions.

No woman alive believes that.

BLITZER:  Here’s what I don’t understand, because you’re an excellent and very astute political strategist.

All of those points you’re making are fine, but why bring Ann Romney into this conversation?  Why did you have to bring — you hated it when conservatives, right-wingers used to go after Michelle Obama or spouse or wife of any of these Democratic candidates.  Why bring her into this conversation?

ROSEN:  Look, Wolf, you know, I should not have chosen words that seemed to attack Ann Romney’s choice in life, and I apologize for that.

But Ann Romney and Mitt Romney brought themselves into this conversation.  When he goes on the campaign trail and says she is his economic surrogate, when she goes out there and makes these points, I’m not bringing them into this.  Come on.  That’s a little too much.  We know that they have brought themselves into this.


BLITZER:  When Michelle Obama goes out there and speaks on behalf of her husband, should conservatives, Republicans go after Michelle Obama?

ROSEN:  You don’t think that the Republicans…

BLITZER:  They do, but…

ROSEN:  … are going to hold Michelle Obama accountable for every single thing that comes out of her mouth and always have?  Of course they have.

BLITZER:  But is that appropriate?  Is that appropriate?

ROSEN:  You know what?  When it comes to the family, no.  But when it comes to defending your husband’s record, when it comes to what you do in your life, those are things that end up happening.  That’s the political world we live n.

And she will pay the price.  If anybody believes that the Republicans lay off of her, they’re naive.

BLITZER:  You’re a lifelong Democrat, but the Democrats are quickly throwing you, as you well know, under the bus, Hilary.

ROSEN:  Yes.

BLITZER:  The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, tweeting, “Every woman works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”

ROSEN:  I couldn’t agree more with the first lady on that.

BLITZER:  Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic Party: “Disappointed in Hilary Rosen’s comments.  As a mother of three, there’s no doubt that raising children is work.”

And Vice President Joe Biden just gave an interview to MSNBC in which he said — and they have been tweeting it — “My response to that is that’s an outrageous assertion.”

And you saw what David Axelrod and Jim Messina from the campaign, the Obama campaign…

ROSEN:  Yes.  That’s OK.

BLITZER:  How does that feel when all your fellow Democrats are going after you like that?

ROSEN:  You know, I totally agree with what the first lady said about women.

That’s what I have felt my whole life.  So what she said is fine.  What the rest of them said, you know, that is politics.  The Republicans slammed and came at this pretty quickly.  People who know me know that I didn’t intend that, but my words are — were not very good.

If they want to play politics with it, that’s fine.  It doesn’t change the issues.  It doesn’t change whether Mitt Romney appeals to women or not.  And it doesn’t change whether the fact that I still believe Barack Obama has the best record to run on that supports women.

BLITZER:  Have any of these people or others in the White House or at the DNC or at the Obama campaign contacted you or spoken to you about any of this today?

ROSEN:  I have had several supportive calls.

BLITZER:  Supportive?  But what are they saying?

ROSEN:  Well, you know, people understand.  People know me.  They know that I wouldn’t attack a stay-at-home mom and that that’s not what I think this debate is about.

So I’m comfortable with that.  And people who know me, I think, are comfortable with it, too.

BLITZER:  And you heard in the Joe Johns report that Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, right out of the box, he’s asked about you and your comments.  And apparently your name — or Hilary Rosen’s name comes up 35 times having visited this Obama White House.

Listen to what Carney says.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  First of all, I haven’t seen the records.

I don’t know that — Hilary Rosen, I — I know three, personally, women named Hilary Rosen.  So I’m not sure that those represent the person we’re talking about, necessarily.  So I really can’t comment on the number of visits since I’m not sure that’s accurate.


BLITZER:  It sounded a little insulting, don’t you think?

ROSEN:  I don’t know any other Hilary Rosens, but Jay must.  So, you know, it’s politics.  It is what it is.

BLITZER:  I mean, it’s politics.  One thing for the Republicans to be slamming you, which, obviously, that’s politics.

But for all these Democrats that you have worked so closely with them over the years to quickly…

ROSEN:  You know, I — I think that this — that the modern-day campaign and the swiftness of the charges and the countercharges and the intensity of it is enormously frightening for campaign professionals and for consultants and candidates alike.

You know, everybody’s words are parsed so carefully.  And, you know, I have clearly been on the other side where I have jumped on people’s misstatements.

So, I’m not claiming victim here.  So, I — when people go for the corner, their respective corners, I understand it.  It’s not personal.  I hope Mrs. Romney knows that I didn’t mean it personally.

I was talk — trying to talk about the economic issues.  But, you know, this is going to be an ugly campaign season.  And if this ends up being a start to it, so be it, but, actually, I don’t think it is.

BLITZER:  If someone — you would probably be happy about this — could organize a little face-to-face time between you Ann Romney to talk about this in person, that would probably be helpful, don’t you think?

ROSEN:  You know, we don’t have a beer summit.  She doesn’t have to answer to me.  Her husband is the one running for president.

And he’s got to make his case to American women that he’s got a vision for them and that he understands us, and whether we want to be stay-at-home moms and whether we are struggling with two jobs to feed our families while he wants to give his rich friends a tax cut.

BLITZER:  Hilary Rosen, thanks very much for coming in.

ROSEN:  OK, Wolf.  thanks.

BLITZER:  Good luck.

ROSEN:  Thanks.