WASHINGTON - Democrat Barack Obama has a message for Tennessee's Republican Party: "Lay off my wife."
Obama, his party's presidential front-runner, and his wife, Michelle, were asked in an interview aired Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America" about an online video last week by the state's GOP taking her to task for a comment some considered unpatriotic.
"The GOP, should I be the nominee, can say whatever they want to say about me, my track record," Obama said. "If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family."
He called the strategy "low class."
The video, posted on YouTube, centered on remarks Michelle Obama made while campaigning in Wisconsin last February, when she said: "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country."
The four-minute video replayed the remark six times, interspersing it with commentary by Tennesseans on why they are proud of America. In a news release that included a link to the video, Tennessee's GOP said "the Tennessee Republican Party has always been proud of America." It urged radio stations to play "patriotic music" during Michelle Obama's visit to Nashville last Thursday.
Michelle Obama later clarified the remark, saying she meant she was proud of how Americans were engaging in the political process and that she had always been proud of her country.
"Whoever is in charge of the Tennessee GOP needs to think long and hard about the kind of campaign they want to run, and I think that's true for everybody, Democrat or Republican," Obama said in the ABC interview, adding: "These folks should lay off my wife."
Obama said his wife "loves this country. For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her is, I think, just low class. I think that most of the American people would think that as well."
Tennessee's Republican Party was roundly criticized in March, including by likely presidential nominee John McCain, for a news release that used Barack Obama's middle name — Hussein — and showed a photo of him wearing what it said was "Muslim attire."
The release ultimately was removed from the party's Web site at the urging of the state's two Republican senators and Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan, who said he "rejects these kinds of campaign tactics."