Senate Democrats leapt to the defense of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Monday after a former CIA director suggested a disputed report on interrogations produced by her office was motivated by her "emotional feeling."
Michael Hayden, who was President George W. Bush's CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said on "Fox News Sunday" that the motivation behind the still-classified, 6,300-page investigation "may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don't think it leads you to an objective report."
By Monday afternoon, several leading Democrats were blasting Hayden for the remarks.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the comments "simply outrageous."
On the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the comments condescending, while also trying to link them to Republicans as a whole.
"Does this sound like a person or party that respects women?" Reid said.
Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat who serves alongside Feinstein on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the reference to Feinstein's emotions a "baseless smear" that Hayden wouldn't make against a man.
Feinstein and other committee members voted 11-3 last week to declassify about 500 pages of the report. The CIA is reviewing those sections. The process coincides with a bitter, related dispute between Feinstein's committee and the agency over dueling allegations of illegal snooping and competing criminal referrals.
Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement that declassifying the review of CIA's detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks "would ensure nothing like it happens again." She called Hayden's reference to her emotions "nonsense."
"The report itself is objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits," Feinstein said.
Hayden, also a former NSA director, said Sunday that it would be "very hard" for him to make a judgment about the report since he has not seen it, nor has anybody responsible for it "spoken a word" about its content.
Hayden also defended the CIA interrogation program against the argument the agency had information about Usama bin Laden's whereabouts without having to use so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on a detainee.
He told Fox News the interrogations helped the United States track bin Laden and that "simply learning a fact is not the same thing as learning the importance of that fact."
The report was produced exclusively by Democratic staffers. It concludes among other things that waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" provided no key evidence in the hunt for bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with the document, who have spoken on condition of anonymity because the report is still classified.
And the report is also said to accuse the agency of misleading Bush and Congress about the successes of the program. The CIA disputes many of the findings.
Udall, D-Colo., also defended the merits of the committee's investigation.
The "study is based on an exhaustive and years-long review of millions of internal CIA and other records," he said. "The fact that former Director Hayden questions the objectivity of the committee's study at the same time that he freely admits that he hasn't read it demonstrates particular gall, in my view."
Udall said declassification would ensure a "long overdue public debate" that sets the record straight.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.