WASHINGTON -- Vice President George Bush's spokesman Peter Teeley, who acknowledged using the word 'bitchy' about Geraldine Ferraro, says he was referring to her as a 'perceived politician' not as a person, and her campaign is 'hypersensitive.'
He did not apologize for using the word, as Ferraro campaign manager John Sasso suggested he should.
Following the Ferraro-Bush debate in Philadelphia late Thursday, Teeley said of Sasso's reaction: 'I think they're being hypersensitive, if you want to know the truth.'
Sasso called the remark 'an insult to every woman in this country' and said it 'shows very poor taste on the part of Mr. Bush's campaign.'
'I think Mr. Bush ought to apologize for the very poor taste and poor judgment of his campaign,' Sasso said.
The flap began when The Wall Street Journal asked Teeley to assess the Democratic vice presidential candidate and he said: 'She's too bitchy. She's very arrogant. Humility isn't one of her strong points and I think that comes through.'
Teeley later confirmed the newspaper's quote and explained: 'What I meant by that, is ... essentially, she has to come across tonight as not being screechy or scratchy. If you have to use the word 'bitchy,' that's adequate.'
He denied the word had sexist implications, calling it synonymous with 'crabby.'
But Judy Goldsmith, president of the National Organization for Women, said, 'It is a sexist remark. People don't ever say it about men, only about women. It says much more about the Bush campaign than it does about Ferraro's.'
Teeley said he was referring to the perception of Ferraro in polls. 'It has nothing to do with her as a person. It has everything to do with her as a perceived politician,' he said.
Democratic nominee Walter Mondale's spokesman Dayton Duncan called Teeley's words an 'inappropriate remark' and said, 'I would assume Vice President Bush would disassociate himself from it.'
There was no immediate comment from Bush's office at the White House or from his campaign.
Rep. Lynn Martin, R-Ill., however, who played the role of Ferraro in mock debates with Bush, called Teeley's remarks 'dopey' and said, 'It is ultimately taking away from the office and taking away from the person who said it.'
Rep. Barbara Kennelly, D-Conn., saying the remark had 'crossed the line between tough campaigning and just plain bad taste,' called on the vice president to retract the words on behalf of his spokesman.
Monday, Bush's wife, Barbara, chatting with two wire service reporters aboard the vice president's plane, referred to Ferraro as, 'I can't say it, but it rhymes with 'rich.''
She later apologized and said the word she was thinking of was 'witch.'