Wisconsin Republicans on Thursday accused a national Democratic leader of using an inappropriate analogy to domestic violence when she criticized Governor Scott Walker's record on women's issues at a roundtable in Milwaukee a day earlier.
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chair of the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, attacked Walker's track record at the event.
"Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct, but that is reality. What Republican extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back," Wasserman Schultz said in a video of Wednesday's event shown on local television.
Walker's campaign called the comments inflammatory.
"This cheap political stunt crossed the line of decency," the campaign said on its website.
In a statement to CBS News, Wasserman Schultz said, "I shouldn't have used the words I used," and added, "That shouldn't detract from the broader point that I was making that Scott Walker's policies have been bad for Wisconsin women. Whether it's mandating ultrasounds, repealing an equal pay law, or rejecting federal funding for preventative health care, Walker's record speaks for itself."
Walker, a conservative who has angered unions with reforms of collective bargaining for public sector employees, is running a tight race for re-election to a second term against Democrat Mary Burke. A central issue in the campaign is whether the Wisconsin economy and job growth have improved under Walker's watch.
Women's rights groups have criticized him for his policies on equal pay rules, school sex education and funding for Planned Parenthood.
Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch joined other Wisconsin Republicans in protesting Wasserman Schultz's language.
"I am offended and insulted, as are other Wisconsin women who believe so wholeheartedly in the Wisconsin comeback," Kleefisch said in comments cited by the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Leader-Telegram newspaper. "We are so disappointed that Mary Burke would stand with a woman who would make such horrific remarks."
Burke's press secretary, Stephanie Wilson, said Burke would not use that type of language to point out differences in the governor's race, the Leader-Telegram said.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Bill Trott)