President Obama said Thursday that there is “no tougher job than being a mom” as he distanced himself from the remarks of veteran Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who created a firestorm when she attacked Ann Romney’s decision to be a stay-at-home mom.

In an interview with an ABC television affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Obama sought to diffuse the budding controversy over Rosen’s comments on CNN on Wednesday that the wife of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had “never worked a day in her life.”

Obama told interviewer Bruce Aune of KCRG-TV9: “When I think about what Michelle had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mom who raised me and my sister: That’s work. Anyone who would argue otherwise probably needs to rethink their statement.”

Rosen, a longtime strategist and political commentator, issued an apology to Ann Romney, calling her own words “poorly chosen.” But that hasn’t stopped the Romney campaign, and many other conservatives, from criticizing her and attempting to tie her to the White House.

White House visitor logs show that someone named Hilary Rosen visited at least 36 times since 2009. But White House press secretary Jay Carney said he couldn’t confirm that it was the same Rosen each time, noting that he knows three different women by that name.

The visitor logs show a Hilary B. Rosen 25 times, while the other 11 visits list a Rosen without a middle initial.

“I don’t know how to assess her overall relationship with people here in the White House,” Carney said. “I have not seen her here very frequently.”

The interview with the ABC affiliate was one of four interviews Obama granted to local television stations in electoral swing states Thursday. The president had hoped to focus on the economy, but the Rosen controversy quickly overshadowed the president’s intended message.

Obama did not mention Rosen by name in the interview. But he declared that attacks on the spouses of political candidates are off limits.

“My general view is, those of us who are in the public life, we’re fair game,” Obama said. “Our families are civilians. I haven’t met Mrs. Romney, but she seems like a very nice woman who is supportive of her family and supportive of her husband. I don’t know if she necessarily volunteered for this job so, you know, we don’t need to be directing comments at them.”