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Wasserman Schultz says her words 'shouldn't detract' from Walker's record

By Leigh Ann Caldwell, CNN
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: I "shouldn't have used the words I used"
  • Earlier, she said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker "has given women the back of his hand"
  • But she says her comments "shouldn't detract" from Walker's policies that hurt women
  • Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore defends Wasserman Schultz

(CNN) -- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, walked back her comments Thursday invoking images of domestic abuse when talking about Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

"I shouldn't have used the words I used," she said through spokeswoman Lily Adams.

"But 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."

Wasserman Schultz has been heavily criticized in social media and in conservative media for saying Wednesday that Walker "has given women the back of his hand" because of his policies impacting women.

She made the remarks while in Wisconsin campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, who is trying to unseat Walker, the incumbent Republican.

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As the leading Democratic said her words were ill chosen, Walker responded to her comments for the first time Thursday.

On the Jerry Bader show on Wisconsin radio station WHBL, he said his opponent, Burke, should "absolutely" speak out against them.

"I think anyone should. If anyone made comments like that, I don't care if they are Democrat, Republican or anyone else, to use language like that is just an affront and outrageous."

Burke, a former executive at Trek Bicycle Corporation, had already distanced herself from Wasserman Schultz's statement.

Those comments are "not the type of language that Mary Burke would use, or has used, to point out the clear differences in this contest," Stephanie Wilson, press secretary for Burke, said. "There is plenty that she and Gov. Walker disagree on, but those disagreements can and should be pointed out respectfully."

Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida, spent a total of several hours before and after the event with friend and colleague, Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore, who has publicly spoken about her experience as a domestic violence victim.

Women voters are critical to Democrats' voter base and are less likely to turn out for midterm elections. Burke has advanced in the polls, making the race between Burke and Scott extremely close, according to a trio of polls since mid-July.

In the latest response by Adams, Wasserman Schultz slammed the congressional Republicans who opposed the latest version of the Violence Against Women Act, which gives legal protections for domestic violence victims.

Moore came to Wasserman Schultz's defense.

She "applauds the chairwoman's audacity and courage in her pursuit to defend economic and social equality for all women," her spokesman, Eric Harris, told CNN.

CNN's Ashley Killough and Steve Brusk contributed to this story.

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