MILWAUKEE, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is under fire for comments comparing Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker's record with domestic violence.
"Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality," Wasserman-Schultz said Wednesday during a round-table discussion in Milwaukee.
"What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back," the Florida congresswoman continued. "It is not going to happen on our watch."
Democrats are hoping they can exploit the gender gap in politics that shows Republicans struggling to attract female voters. They have hammered opponents over blocking a federal minimum wage hike -- women are a majority of minimum-wage earners -- and for backing efforts to restrict access to abortion.
But Republicans quickly pounced on Wasserman Schultz's comments, accusing her and her party of manufacturing a "Republican war on women."
"I think the remarks were absolutely hideous and the motive behind them was despicable," said Walker's Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican, whose statement was passed on by Walker's office. She called on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke to denounce "these outrageous statements."
A spokeswoman for Burke distanced the candidate from Wasserman Schultz's words.
"That's not the type of language that Mary Burke would use, or has used, to point out the clear differences in this contest," said Burke press secretary Stephanie Wilson. "For the last 11 months of this campaign, and in the final 9 weeks left to go, Mary is committed to pointing out those clear differences -- there is plenty that she and Governor Walker disagree on -- but those disagreements can and should be pointed out respectfully."
Recent polling in the state shows Burke eliminating Walker's lead and now in a tie.
Lily Adams, a spokeswoman for the DNC, pointed to the Democrats' support of the Violence Against Women Act -- the reauthorization of which some Republicans in the House tried to block in recent terms.
"Domestic violence is an incredibly serious issue and the Congresswoman was by no means belittling the very real pain survivors experience," Adams said.
"That's why Democrats... won't take a lesson from the party that blocked and opposed [VAWA's] reauthorization," she said. "The fact of the matter is that Scott Walker's policies have been bad for Wisconsin's women."
Wasserman Schultz was in Milwaukee to criticize Walker's opposition to increasing the minimum wage and for signing a bill that would prevent people who say they have suffered employment discrimination from seeking damages in court.