ABC News' Teddy Davis, Bret Hovell, and Arnab Datta report: A Democratic Party leader said Wednesday that Sarah Palin's "primary qualification" for the vice presidency is that she has not had an abortion, prompting Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to charge that Democrats are trying to "demean" the governor of Alaska and "wipe out" all of her accomplishments because she "disagrees with the NARAL crowd on one issue."
"Our Democratic colleagues are, quite frankly, in a meltdown," said Graham, referring to comments that South Carolina Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler made to Politico. "I hope that [Sen. Obama] will take this opportunity to step out and get this campaign back on track, and reject this really outrageous, demeaning statement to someone who has accomplished a lot in her life other than not having an abortion."
Fowler did not dispute the accuracy of the Politico report. She responded to the uproar caused by her remarks by issuing a paper statement apologizing to anyone who was offended by her comments. Fowler said she was "clumsily" trying to make a point about single-issue voters.
"I personally admire and respect the difficult choices that women make every day, and I apologize to anyone who finds my comment offensive," said Fowler in her statement. "I clumsily was making a point about people in South Carolina who may vote based on a single issue. Whether it’s the environment, the economy, the war, or a woman’s right to choose, there are people who will cast their vote based on a single issue. That was the only point I was attempting to make."
Graham made his comments on a conference call arranged by the McCain campaign. He was joined on the call with reporters by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who sought to portray Fowler's comments as fitting into a broader pattern of sexism.
"What we are seeing is a pattern that has come into play," said Blackburn. "You can go back to the remark that Sen. Obama made to a reporter back during the primary, claiming she was referred to as 'sweetie.' And then, moving forward, he passed over Sen. Clinton, and many feel like he also passed over Gov. Sebelius, both as running mates, and then the lipstick comment that he made yesterday."
Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro responded to Fowler's comments, saying, "She was not speaking for our campaign, just as John McCain has said state parties don’t speak for him. But, obviously, this does not reflect our view."
Shapiro's comment was a reference to McCain saying earlier this year that he could not stop the North Carolina Republican Party from airing an ad against Democratic gubernatorial candidates, which featured the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor.
A McCain spokesman distinguished the Arizona senator's posture toward the North Carolina GOP by noting that McCain -- rather than one of his aides -- personally spoke out against the state party's ad, even while acknowledging that he was powerless to stop it.
"What she said was beyond the pale," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. "I think Barack Obama needs to step up and speak to this. This kind of stuff has no place in this campaign."