COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's Democratic Party chairwoman said Wednesday that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's top qualification seems to be not having had an abortion. She later apologized.
In an interview posted on the political Web site Politico, Chairwoman Carol Fowler said Republican John McCain picked a running mate "whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn't had an abortion."
Fowler later apologized, saying she made the statement during an interview about single-issue voters.
"I personally admire and respect the difficult choices that women make everyday, and I apologize to anyone who finds my comment offensive," Fowler said in a 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," she continued. "That was the only point I was attempting to make."
Palin opposes abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, and has lived out her convictions by bearing son Trig in April, knowing he had Down syndrome.
A top McCain surrogate, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, said it was an outrage to dismiss Palin's record and life with that kind of remark.
"I think it has more to do with the fact our Democratic colleagues and opponents are in a meltdown mode over Gov. Palin," Graham said. He said there would be a "firestorm of monumental proportion" if a Republican had said the same thing about a female Democrat running for vice president, and called on Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to repudiate Fowler's remark.
"If he doesn't speak to this and condemn this statement, it will speak volumes about where we're at on the Democratic side," Graham said.
Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro said Fowler was not speaking for the campaign, "just as John McCain has said state parties don't speak for him."
"But obviously this does not reflect our view," Shapiro said.
A fellow Democrat, Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, also distanced himself from Fowler's comment.
"Her statement about Gov. Palin is outrageous and wrong, because Sarah Palin's qualifications are quite evident," the House Budget Committee chairman said in a statement. "She is the mother of five children who has been elected mayor of her town and governor of her state, and she has shown herself to be an effective public speaker and an energetic campaigner. Sen. Obama has said that 'families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits.' I could not agree more."