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Ohio Congresswoman Says She Should Have Rephrased 'Coward' Comment

Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt said Tuesday she should have rephrased her sharp critique of a fellow congressman's call to immediately pull troops from Iraq.

Schmidt was booed off the floor of the U.S. House on Friday after she criticized Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., saying that "cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

When Schmidt made the comment, Democrats rose in protest at the suggestion that Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran and the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, was a coward.

Schmidt said the comment was prompted by a conversation she had with state Rep. Danny Bubp, though he denies discussing Murtha with Schmidt.

Schmidt, who sent Murtha a note of apology on Friday moments after her speech, said in a statement Tuesday that she never intended to attack Murtha personally.

"While I strongly disagree with his policy, neither Representative Bubp nor I ever wished to attack Congressman Murtha," she said. "I only take exception to his policy position."

Bubp said in a statement of his own Tuesday that his conversation with Schmidt "was based strictly on the proposal to immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq and the consequences of such a proposal."

Schmidt declined during an interview on Cincinnati radio station WLW to discuss her fellow Republican's denial: "I was repeating words. I am not going to get into that debate."

Neither Schmidt nor Bubp returned calls left at their offices Tuesday.

Murtha has called Schmidt's comment ridiculous.

"You can't spin this. You've got to have a real solution," Murtha said Monday when asked about her remarks at a news conference in Pennsylvania. "This is not a war of words, this is a war."

Other Republicans also criticized Murtha for calling for the withdrawal of troops. President Bush and other administration officials have since said that while they don't agree with Murtha, they do not question his patriotism.