Former Obama adviser Barnes: Bill Maher's comments on Ann Romney 'problematic'


Maher was discussing the controversy surrounding Democratic strategist Rosen's remark last week that GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney's wife has "never worked a day in her life" on his HBO show "Real Time" Friday night, describing the uproar as "stupid" and "non-consequential."

"But what she meant to say, I think, was that Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work," he joked. "No one is denying that being a mother is a tough job, I remember that I was a handful. OK, but there is a big difference in being a mother, and that tough job, and getting your ass out of the door at 7 a.m. when it’s cold, having to deal with the boss, being in a workplace, where even if you're unhappy you can’t show it for 8 hours."

The commentator and comedian has been a public supporter of Obama, donating $1 million to the super-PAC supporting the president's reelection. Republicans have slammed Maher for earlier comments and called on Obama to reject his political donation.

Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, added that the president and the Obama campaign have said that civility "matters."

" 'The way we talk to each other matters.' And they’re going to have to, as you said, make a decision," she said.

Barnes was responding to host George Stephanopoulos's question on whether the president will have to "cut ties" with Maher. She told ABC that in similar situations in the past the White House has distanced itself from the television host.

"I saw David Axelrod in earlier situations when comments have been made by Bill Maher say, 'I’m not going on your show. I’m backing away. I’m distancing myself.’ So it's a conversation, it's a decision they'll have to make," Barnes said.

ABC News’s Cokie Roberts, who was on the guest panel with Barnes, pointed out that the White House and the Obama campaign distanced themselves from Rosen following her comments last week.

The Romney campaign used Rosen's remarks to paint Democrats as insulting to stay-at-home mothers. 

The first response to the comments came from Ann Romney herself, in the form of a tweet. 

"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," Romney wrote.

Rosen later apologized to "Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended" for the comments she had made on CNN last Wednesday. "Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance," Rosen said in a statement last Thursday. 

White House adviser David Plouffe and Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod made separate appearances last Thursday night to distance themselves from the remarks and stem the flood of criticism.

"I think we have an obligation in politics and public life, when someone, even friends, say things that are inappropriate, to say so. In fact, in certain ways, when your friends say it, there is more of an obligation to do so,” Axelrod said on CNN.

Romney campaign adviser Kevin Madden, who was also on the ABC "This Week" roundtable Sunday, agreed with Stephanopoulos that the campaign viewed the Rosen comments as an "opportunity."

"I think every campaign has to seize on an opportunity like this. I think this was the debate sort-of crystallized the differences, left and right on this particular issue … but I do think it's a bit of a sideshow. You can never get too happy about these things when they're good for you and you can never get too down when they're bad for you, but the central issue here about how you persuade women voters to vote for Gov. Romney is still the economy," he said.