JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mel Carnahan's U.S. Senate campaign said Thursday that Sen. John Ashcroft is "trying to dodge the issue" by not responding to Democratic calls that he fire the party's spokesman.
For the third straight day, Ashcroft has refused comment on an Internet charge by his party's chief Missouri spokesman, Daryl Duwe, comparing State Auditor Claire McCaskill to "a cheap hooker."
Also, the Associated Press reported that a spokesman for GOP Presidential Candidate George W. Bush said Duwe's remarks have no place in political discourse.
The comparison, published on Duwe's private web site, led state Democratic Party officials to call on GOP colleagues to fire the spokesman.
GOP candidate for governor Jim Talent and party chairwoman Ann Wagner both have said they will not terminate Duwe.
But Ashcroft, who is seeking re-election, has made no statement on the matter -- despite co-sponsoring a Senate resolution to clean up the Internet.
The resolution, which passed the Senate, declares October of this year to be "Children's Internet Safety Month." It expresses support for parents' efforts to keep the Internet "safe" and "positive" for children.
"Clearly his silence on Duwe is inconsistent with that resolution, and with everything he wants people to believe about him," said Marc Farinella, Carnahan's campaign manger. "(Duwe's) remarks are not consistent with Missouri values," Ashcroft's campaign slogan.
Ashcroft's "campaign is based on character," Farinella said. "He should do what's right and terminate the spokesman whose salary he helps pay for. He shouldn't have to be called or prodded to act."
For the third day in a row, however, repeated calls to the Ashcroft campaign went unreturned. Ashcroft's campaign spokesman, David James, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Wednesday that the campaign "isn't focused on Jefferson City political fights." A call from a reporter Thursday to the campaign was disconnected.
The ruckus stems from an article Duwe penned on his private web site, missourigrapevine.com, that chastises McCaskill for letting "Democrats parade her around like a cheap hooker" in the fight over whether gambling revenue goes to education. Duwe has since changed "hooker" to "politician."
In an ad for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Holden, McCaskill rebutted Talent's contention that gambling money earmarked for schools isn't going there. Republicans were angered that she took her credibility as auditor into the political arena.
McCaskill, a Democrat, sent Ashcroft and Talent a letter saying her three children could "logically" click from the Republicans' web site to Duwe's site. In addition to the hooker comparison, she said she was troubled by Duwe's headline, "McCaskill Soils Herself."
Female politicians across the state have expressed their disapproval of Duwe's characterization, including Republicans.
State Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis, tried hard not to condemn Duwe.
"I honestly believe whatever role you accept in life requires certain behavior," she said. When asked if Duwe had violated that expected conduct, she said: "Don't make me say that."
Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar lambasted not just Duwe, but the whole party Wednesday in a news conference in Kansas City.
"There seems to be a double standard emerging in the Republican party and it troubles me," she said. "I've seen it first hand."