New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who famously hammered then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato for calling him a "putz-head" in their hot 1998 campaign, was accused Thursday of stepping into the gutter himself after he sent out a fundraising e-mail in which he called Massachusetts Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown a "far-right tea-bagger."
The two-term Democrat, in accusing Brown of being aligned with the conservative "tea party" movement, used a term that every tea party critic knows refers to a sexual act.
"Chuck has a way of saying things that I don't think he really understands or means, and it's unfortunate," Brown told Fox News Thursday when asked about the e-mail. "I'm not into name-calling. ... so shame on Chuck."
Liberal television hosts had a field day with the "tea bag" term last year when the tea party movement gained steam. It seemed to lose its luster after the joke got old, but Schumer brought it back as he urged supporters to vote for Democrat Martha Coakley in next Tuesday's high-stakes special election.
"Martha Coakley is running to fill the rest of Ted Kennedy's term, and her opponent is a far-right tea-bagger Republican," Schumer wrote.
Critics pointed out that Schumer cried foul in 1998 after D'Amato called him a "putz-head" during a meeting with Jewish supporters. The Yiddish word "putz" literally means "penis," though it has taken on a less vulgar meaning in common usage. Schumer, a Brooklyn congressman at the time, seized on D'Amato's insult and blasted the three-term Republican senator right up until the election for initially denying that he said it.
Schumer won the election, was re-elected in 2004 and is seeking re-election again this year.