“If you’re a stay-at-home mom, the Democrats have a message for you: You’ve never worked a day in your life. That’s exactly what Obama adviser Hilary Rosen said about Ann Romney last night.”
— From a blog post on the official Mitt Romney campaign site
Republicans last week tried shifting the supposed “war on women” to an alleged “war on moms” in an effort to win back female voters who are supporting Democrats in overwhelming numbers. Liberal pundit Hilary Rosen provided a big assist when she said Wednesday that Ann Romney, the wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and one-time stay-at-home-mom, can’t understand the economic concerns of women because she “hasn’t worked a day in her life.”
Rosen’s remarks opened an old wound from the culture wars, casting doubt on the value of stay-at-home moms. Some argue that women betray themselves by not pursuing careers, a controversial stance that feminist Linda Hirshman took with her 2006 book “Get to Work.”
Rosen apologized for her remarks, but not until 18 hours had passed, and not before she’d blamed Romney for bringing his wife into the debate and accused the candidate of hiding behind his wife’s skirt.
We won’t weigh in on which party loves women and moms, but we think it’s important to look at whether Rosen truly spoke on behalf of “the Democrats” during her CNN appearance and whether she is truly an Obama adviser — meaning her comments would be somewhat representative of the president’s campaign thinking.
The Romney campaign pointed out a number of news articles that connect Rosen with President Obama and the Democratic Party, including reports that she worked for the Democratic National Committee and made some 35 visits to the Obama White House.
Let’s take a look at these connections to see if they mean anything. We’ll start by examining Rosen’s political résumé, or at least the parts that are public. Keep in mind that the term “strategist,” which has been applied to Rosen, can mean many things. A recent article in The Washington Post pointed out that consultants, lobbyists, public-relations types, trade association executives and sometimes actual strategists all fall into this category.
Rosen worked directly for three Democratic politicians — those of former New Jersey governor Brendan Byrne, Sen. Bill Bradley (N.J.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) — early in her career. She later served as political director for the Huffington Post and as a pundit for CNBC, MSNBC, and more recently for CNN.
Rosen is also a managing director for SKDKnickerbocker, a Washington, D.C., public relations firm that is under contract with the DNC. The firm’s senior vice president, Doug Thornell, said the contract covers services from only one person, former Obama White House communications director Anita Dunn, another managing director for SKDKnickerbocker.
We obtained a copy of the contract and found that Dunn is the only member of the firm whose name and signature appear on the document. CNN listed Rosen’s title as “political contributor” and “Democratic strategist.” In other words, she’s a well-known Democratic public-relations expert who was serving as a pundit at the time of the interview. This is different from speaking for “the Democrats.”
DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard said on MSNBC Thursday that “Hillary Rosen is absolutely not a paid adviser to the DNC or to the Obama campaign, absolutely not.”
Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent also reported Thursday that a CNN spokeswoman told him, “Hilary Rosen, like all CNN contributors, is not a paid adviser to any political party or presidential campaign.” (CNN confirmed that statement.)
Nonetheless, Rosen has worked for the national Democratic Party in the past. The Wall Street Journal noted in a Feb. 16 article that she provided “occasional political advice and media training” at some point after the president named Debbie Wasserman Schultz to chair the DNC. Ironically, the report said Obama advisers hoped Rosen could help Wasserman Schultz control her penchant for the type of hyperbole that was eroding political relations between the left and right.
As for those visits to the president’s home, White House spokesman Jay Carney refuted those reports Thursday at a news briefing, saying, “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.”
Carney’s argument is suspicious, considering that Rosen uses a fairly uncommon spelling for her first name.
We checked the White House log to find out how many times a “Hilary Rosen” visited the president’s home. The name appears 36 times, with 25 instances for Hilary B. Rosen. It’s safe to say that’s Hilary Beth Rosen, the D.C. pundit and political strategist who slammed Ann Romney on CNN.
Still, records show that Rosen hasn’t paid a visit to the White House since Dec., 7, 2011, which puts about four months’ distance between Rosen and the Obama administration in terms of appearances at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
We also noticed an AP article that said Rosen was one of 18 people who advised the Obama White House on messaging during the debates over health-care reform in 2009, but that was more than two years ago.
Still, neither the Obama campaign nor the DNC have defended Rosen’s comments or doubled down on them. In fact, both described the remarks as regrettable and gave stay-at-home moms big props the following day.
Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod called Rosen’s comments “unfortunate,” saying they seemed like a “denigration of stay-at-home moms.” He added: “There are moms that are working that would like to be home, and to suggest that you are not working if you’re staying home, raising a family, often active in the schools and the community and causes, that’s not right.”
Obama on Thursday added this during an interview for Oklahoma ABC affiliate KCGR: “When I think about what Michelle [Obama] 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.”
Even First Lady Michelle Obama condemned the comments, tweeting: “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected. — mo.”
Rosen first defended her remarks Thursday morning, but she didn’t take them back at that point. “I love stay-at-home moms, and I have nothing against them,” she said on CNN’s Newsroom. “And I support them all the time.”
Rosen eventually apologized in a statement saying: “Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen.”
The Pinocchio Test
Rosen clearly has deep ties to the Obama administration and Democrats in general, but she wasn’t speaking Wednesday as a representative of the president or the Democratic Party. CNN listed her as a “political contributor” and “Democratic strategist,” which means she was serving as a pundit at the time of the interview. We found no evidence that she is currently working with the Obama campaign, although we welcome further input from readers who might dig up something we missed.
Rosen’s indiscriminate comments caused Democrats big trouble last week, but that doesn’t mean she represents “the Democrats” in general or that she was speaking as an “Obama adviser,” especially considering that the president and the DNC denounced her remarks.
Overall, the message Democratic leaders delivered after Rosen’s interview was pretty clear: Stay-at-home moms work very hard and deserve respect. Romney’s campaign blog earns two Pinocchios.
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