WASHINGTON -- Never, ever suggest that being a stay-at-home-mom is not work.
Trying to douse a firestorm that dominated the political news cycle, Democratic strategist and CNN political analyst Hilary Rosen apologized Thursday to Ann Romney, mother of five, for her comment that she "never worked a day in her life."
"Let's put the faux 'war against stay-at-home moms' to rest," Rosen said in her statement.
First lady Michelle Obama -- in what for her was an extraordinary move since she tries to be militantly non-controversial -- jumped in to help with damage control on Thursday after Rosen made her remarks on CNN Wednesday evening about the wife of the presumptive GOP nominee.
Mrs. Obama waded in via a tweet on the Obama campaign re-election site: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected," she said. President Barack Obama was more blunt, telling an interviewer, "It was an ill-advised statement," adding Mrs. Romney "seems like a wonderful woman."
The dust-up comes as a gift to the Mitt Romney campaign, facing the general election battle against Obama with polls showing women favoring Obama.
Rosen's comment overshadowed the Obama White House/Obama campaign messaging theme of the week: pushing the Buffett Rule, or tax equity, using the issue to highlight Romney's enormous wealth and relatively low tax rate.
The Rosen flap also turned attention away from a Romney campaign misstep on a conference call that happened earlier on Wednesday, concerning women and equal wages.
In a matter of hours, the tables turned. Rosen's comments opened a new front in the Obama/Romney battle fought on TV, Twitter and press statements.
Romney's campaign, on offense, found an opening to have Ann Romney -- one of her husband's most effective but not well known surrogates -- up her profile and appeal to women. My profile on Mrs. Romney is HERE.
Ann Romney made her first Twitter tweet on Wednesday saying, "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."
On defense, Obama's team swung immediately into action. "Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive," Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, posted on his Twitter feed.
Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager, said, "I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize."
In her apology statement Rosen said, "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. Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."
Fox News Greta Van Susteren stuck her neck out to defend Rosen, a friend, offering sane commentary on her Gretawire blog.
She wrote: "I did not read Hilary's comments to in any way take away from the hard chore of raising children or staying at home and raising them and not working outside the family. I read it to mean that raising children without financial pressure is easier than having financial pressure."