Nightly News   |  April 12, 2012

Hilary Rosen apologizes for remark about Ann Romney

The Democratic strategist said she applauded Mrs. Romney’s decision to stay home and raise her five boys, but added that Mitt Romney needs to stand up for women’s economic struggles. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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WILLIAMS: Good evening.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: On one level it's one of those distractions that have been so numerous during this campaign season, except this is more than that. A Democratic operative named Hilary Rosen was appearing as she often does on cable news as an unofficial surrogate for the Obama campaign and Democrats in general. Then she uttered the words that blew up upon impact. She said among other things, Ann Romney hasn't worked a day in her life. And right then it rekindled the debate about American women working at home and outside the home. By the end of the day the president, vice president, and first lady had weighed in. Rosen apologized. And an issue that wasn't an issue yesterday is a big one today. We begin our coverage tonight with NBC 's Andrea Mitchell in Washington .

ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Only 24 hours ago, Mitt Romney was surrounding himself with women and has always leaned heavily on his wife, Ann. ..

Former Governor MITT ROMNEY: My sweetheart, Ann Romney .

Ms. ANN ROMNEY: Ho-ho!

MITCHELL: ...trying to narrow a gender gap that has become a virtual canyon during the contentious primaries. Then Romney was handed a political gift wrapped up in a bright pink bow when a prominent Democratic strategist and CNN commentator not working for the White House argued that Ann Romney cannot relate to average women .

Ms. HILARY ROSEN (Democratic Strategist): 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 do we worry about their future.

MITCHELL: With lightning speed, her remarks about stay-at-home moms exploded on Twitter . The Romney campaign called it a "Kill Ann" strategy. Obama adviser David Axelrod , tweeted "Also disappointed in Hilary Rosen 's comments about Ann Romney . They were inappropriate and offensive." The first lady, who worked outside the home part-time while raising her girls until the 2008 campaign, tweeted, "every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected." And Ann Romney wrote her first tweet. "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work." Mrs. Romney also went on Fox .

Ms. 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 a family, which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself.

MITCHELL: The president said there's no tougher job than being a mom.

President BARACK OBAMA: I've watched Michelle , you know, who for most of her career had to juggle work and family, but there were times where she had -- was on maternity leave and I promise you, that's work. So, you know, I think this was an ill-advised statement by somebody on television. It's not something that I subscribe to and moreover, my general rule is you don't talk about the spouses of elected officials.

MITCHELL: In the middle of the fire storm, late today Hilary Rosen apologized for her choice of words.

Ms. ROSEN: 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.

MITCHELL: Rosen also called the spat a distraction to avoid Mitt Romney 's real record, but she has clearly touched a nerve, reigniting a debate that has raged as long as there have been women and work both in and outside the home.

Brian: Andrea Mitchell in our DC newsroom to start us off tonight. Andrea , thanks. As we

WILLIAMS: