BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Scott Brown took a jab at Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren during a radio interview Thursday, saying "Thank God" she didn't take her clothes off to help pay for college. His remark came two days after a debate in which Warren referred to his nude Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold from his law-school days.
Democratic Party officials immediately branded Brown's comment as sexist and more suitable to a "frat house, not a race for U.S. Senate." Warren said she'd survive a jab from Brown.
The Massachusetts Republican made the remark Thursday morning during an interview on WZLX-FM when asked to respond to a comment by Warren during a Democratic primary debate Tuesday night.
Warren and the five other Democratic candidates hoping for a chance to challenge Brown during next year's election were asked how they paid for their college educations. The questioner noted that while Brown was in law school, the future senator posed nude for Cosmopolitan in a photo spread with a strategically placed centerfold crease.
Warren responded in part by saying "I kept my clothes on." She went on to say that she took out student loans, opted for a public university and held a part time job to cover her bills.
During Brown's interview on the classic rock station, one of the hosts asked him to respond to Warren's comment that she kept her clothes on.
Brown laughed and said "Thank God." The host laughed along with him.
The freshman senator also defended his decision to pose for the magazine, saying modeling was his best opportunity to pay for school.
"I didn't go to Harvard, I went to the school of hard knocks and I did whatever I had to do to pay for school," Brown said, pointing to a difficult upbringing and his parents' multiple divorces.
Brown attended Tufts University and Boston College Law School, both private universities. Warren, a Harvard law professor and consumer advocate, attended the University of Houston and received a law degree from Rutgers University, both of which are public schools.
"Let them throw stones. I did what I had to do," Brown added. "But not for having that opportunity I never would have been able to pay for school."
Warren, speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, tried to take Brown's remark in stride.
"I'll survive a few jabs from Scott Brown over my appearance," she said.
She also denied trying to take a jab at him during the debate.
"I answered a question about how I paid for college," she said. "I worked a lot of part-time jobs and actually one full-time job."
Massachusetts Democratic Party Executive Director Clare Kelly labeled Brown's comments "mudslinging" and said they "are the kind of thing you would expect to hear in a frat house, not a race for U.S. Senate."
"Scott Brown's comments send a terrible message that even accomplished women who are held in the highest esteem can be laughingly dismissed based on their looks," Kelly said.
Brown's campaign manager, Jim Barnett, responded by trying to cast Warren as an "elitist."
"It's elitist of Professor Warren to look down at the decisions Scott Brown made to put himself through college and rise above the circumstances of his life," Barnett wrote in an email after Brown's radio interview. "Scott has fought and scraped for everything he's got."
Warren has emerged as an early frontrunner in the Democratic primary race.
A recent UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll showed Brown getting 41 percent of the vote and Warren receiving 38 percent, within the poll's margin of error.
Warren also was the strong favorite of the six Democratic candidates when pollsters surveyed potential Democratic primary voters. She garnered 36 percent of the vote while none of the other five got more than 5 percent.
The poll surveyed 1,005 registered voters in Massachusetts by landline and cell phone from Sept. 22-28. The margin of error was 3.8 percentage points, higher for smaller samples such as potential Democratic primary voters.
The other Democrats in the race include City Year youth program co-founder Alan Khazei; immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco; state Rep. Tom Conroy; Newton resident Herb Robinson; and Robert Massie, a self-described "social justice advocate" who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1994.