Greta defends Hilary Rosen: She's not anti-stay-at-home moms

This is a RUSH transcript from "On The Record" April 12, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, Senator Rick Santorum is here. It's his first TV interview since suspending his presidential campaign. You're going to hear from Senator Rick Santorum in just a few minutes.

But right now, the battle for women voters gets ugly -- very ugly, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, a friend of mine, making remarks about Ann Romney and the economy and setting off a firestorm of controversy and even a Twitter war.

What did Rosen say that sparked the uproar?


HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and, When I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing.

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 -- why we worry about their future.


VAN SUSTEREN: And today, Ann Romney firing back!


ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT 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 family, which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful.

But you know, there are other people that have a choice. We have to respect women in all those choices that they make. I will tell you that Mitt said to me more times than you would imagine, Ann, your job is more important than mine.

He was making money and doing the things, raising funds and investing and helping other companies, and he would come home and say, Ann, your job is more important than mine.


VAN SUSTEREN: And now Rosen making an apology, 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. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women's financial struggles. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended."

Karl Rove is here. Good evening, Karl.

KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH SR. ADVISER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning -- good evening, Greta. How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. Well, nothing's ever dull in Washington, and we have this war on women that I think the Democrats coined that phrase first, and now a Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen, a friend of mine, has walked right into the war. And so now the question is where does it go from here?

ROVE: Yes. Well, she didn't walk into the war, she -- she -- she went in guns blazing, threw a few grenades, insulted five million women who have chosen to stay and home and be stay-at-home moms.

And you know, I thought -- I thought her apology, such as it was, was interesting. Third sentence, she says her words were a poor choice. Eighth sentence, she says she apologizes to Ann Romney and anyone who is offended. And in her ninth sentence, which you left out of what you read, she goes back and re-insults Ann Romney, saying, Let's put this phony war on working -- on stay-at-home moms behind us and get on.

Well, wait a minute! You were the one who started the war on stay-at- home moms. It wasn't a phony war. I assume Hilary Rosen deliberately went out and said those things, was dismissive of Ann Romney as having never worked a day in her life.

And what was interesting to me, also made it sound like if you're a stay-at-home mom, you're not worried about your kids' future. You don't have to -- you know, in my -- in my experience, it's the moms, whether they're staying at home or they're working -- it's the moms who are the ones who are most keenly aware of what it cost to raise a family.

They're the ones worried about getting the shopping done and worried about, you know, making certain the kids get off to school and making sure that the bills get paid and so forth. And they have a keen understanding of what the costs are that the ordinary American family faces, whether they're working or staying at home.

And so it was very dismissive. And I thought the apology was half an apology. She apologized to Ann Romney, and then -- then went and put the knife back in by declaring it a phony war on stay-at-home moms, when she herself had declared it and fired the first shots in it!

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, just a quick reference. Obviously, I'm a friend of Hilary Rosen. I'm a friend of people on both sides of the aisle, so I sometimes get caught in these crosswinds (ph).

The first -- the war -- the so-called "war on women," I agree. That was a phony war started by the Democrats, and it all started over the contraception debate, which the Republicans saw as a 1st Amendment debate and which sort of morphed within the Democratic Party as some sort of war on women, as though the Republicans didn't like women. So I thought that was a phony war.

Now, I will say this in defense of Hilary Rosen. Look, I know her, and she -- and her -- her -- her criticism or her remark was about -- about not -- she was not -- she was not critical of Ann Romney. She would not...

ROVE: Oh, sure, she was, Greta!

VAN SUSTEREN: No, let me just -- wait...

ROVE: Absolutely she was!

VAN SUSTEREN: No, no, no. No...

ROVE: Sure, she was!

VAN SUSTEREN: She was -- no, no. I think...

ROVE: She's never worked a day in her life. She doesn't know these things, she said!

VAN SUSTEREN: I think...

ROVE: It was very dismissive!

VAN SUSTEREN: I think, Karl, the way that I read it -- and I read the remarks -- is that -- is that she -- I don't think she's been critical of the fact that Ann Romney's been an absolutely spectacular mother, and she has. She's raised five children. I don't think she would have been critical of Ann Romney...

ROVE: She never said that!

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think she would have been critical of Ann Romney if the issue were Ann Romney and the challenges that she has faced because she has struggled with a physical problem. I think she would have been fine with that.

I -- the way I read it -- the way I read it is that because -- is that she was not critical of Ann Romney staying at home, she welcomed that choice, she's a mother herself, but the idea that she -- you know, she wouldn't be out in the -- that she didn't know the business world because she doesn't have the experience.

She certainly is an experienced mother. She certainly has the challenges of raising a family, of keeping a household, and she certainly has had the challenge of health issues. But I did not see that as -- as...

ROVE: Greta...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... as critical personally of Ann Romney.

ROVE: Greta, with respect, I watched the episode. You know, you can go to YouTube and see it. She was enormously dismissive of Ann Romney as a person, said she's never worked a day in her life! She doesn't know about these things. She's -- you know, basically called her an economic idiot and said she had no realization of what the real struggles were that women were facing in their lives or that families were dealing with! It was very dismissive, highly personal.

And she never said, Look, I respect Ann Romney. She never said what a marvelous woman who has beat both breast cancer and is fighting MS and has raised a family of five wonderful children! She never said one word like that!

It was negative, nasty, mean and unnecessary! And -- and this -- this so-called apology, with all due respect to Ms. Rosen, was a half apology. I mean, she was the one, I repeat, who started what she called a phony war on stay-at-home moms. And -- and her -- it was not contrite. That was -- that was just -- look, I think -- I think there are people in Chicago who - - who are happy that Hilary Rosen has said this thing and has injected this into the campaign...

VAN SUSTEREN: They've thrown her under the bus already.

ROVE: ... and they're...

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, they've quickly thrown her under the bus.

ROVE: Yes, well, they -- yes, in a 140-word Twitter -- tweet. You know, nobody has -- nobody has called her up...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they threw her under the bus...

ROVE: ... Debbie Wasserman Schultz...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... a lot faster -- they've thrown her under the bus a lot faster than they did, for instance, Reverend Wright. I mean...


ROVE: Yes, I repeat -- I repeat, with a tweet. They should have called up Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic national chairman, whom they instructed to put Rosen in as a senior adviser and say, Publicly fire her as a senior adviser! But they don't do that. Why? Because one of the persons who has -- who has coined the phrase "war on women" and used it probably more than anybody -- and other public figure is Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman of the Democratic Party!


ROVE: The Chicago crowd is happy to have this out there!

VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, I'm totally in agreement with you on this "war on women" thing. I'm totally -- I mean, that's -- that is phony. You know, I totally agree with that, you know, 100 percent.

I think that the way Hilary Rosen handled this last night, the point that she was trying to get, whether you agree with her or not, was -- it was handled very poorly. It was clumsy. I'm only telling you that she's not anti-stay-at-home mothers. I can tell you that. You know, from the -- I know that...


ROVE: Look, look, I agree with that, but she was -- she took a cheap shot at Ann Romney! And the collateral damage was she hurt herself because she went after Ann Romney in the personal and offensive manner that she did and made it look like she was attacking every stay-at-home mom. I -- I -- I -- I will -- I will -- I will grant you...

VAN SUSTEREN: I think it was that...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... Governor Romney.

ROVE: ... she probably didn't mean to do this to every (INAUDIBLE)


VAN SUSTEREN: ... more of a reference to Governor Romney than it was to Mrs. Romney because I think the whole point that she was trying to say that, who he was looking for as economic advice. I actually thought the shot was more at him.

ROVE: No. There are three -- she takes three sentences and devotes three separate shots at Ann Romney. And look, Greta, we're going to disagree about this. I understand that. I think people ought to just go to YouTube, Hilary Rosen, CNN appearance, and judge for themselves.

It was personal! It was mean! It was nasty! And her apology is -- is -- is halfhearted! And I suspect there are guys in Chicago sitting in that headquarters who are saying, God, we were smart to get that 140-word tweet out, and isn't it great we got our shot in and we were able to distance ourselves with it. And don't bother picking up the phone and calling Debbie Wasserman Schultz and telling her to fire Rosen as an adviser. We can't do that. But thank goodness we've handled it the way we did.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I will concede that it was very clumsy the way it was handled. And you know, it'll be anxious -- it'll be interesting to see, you know, what the fall-out is, whether this is a blip or whether this is a continuing narrative throughout the campaign. But this "war on women" thing has actually now come to a head.

ROVE: And frankly, been turned on the Democrats through the ineptitude of their spokesman, their special adviser to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, thank you. Always nice to see you.

ROVE: You bet. You bet, Greta. Thank you.

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