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WASHINGTON — When President Barack Obama ran for re-election last year, he and his advisers were quick to condemn comments from Republicans that were deemed offensive or demeaning to women.
But now, with two prominent members of Obama's Democratic Party admitting to lewd online behavior and facing allegations of sexual harassment, the White House is conspicuously silent.
Republicans say that smacks of hypocrisy. But White House officials draw a distinction, saying Obama's comments last year were in response to the policy implications of the controversial views espoused by the two Republicans who were, at the time, running for Senate.
White House spokesman Jay Carney fended off questions Wednesday about both San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who is facing numerous sexual harassment allegations, and Democrat Anthony Weiner, the former congressman currently running for New York City Mayor. Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after admitting he sent racy pictures and messages over the Internet to women he did not know. Earlier this month, Weiner acknowledged that he engaged in similar behavior even after resigning.
"I don't have any comment on that any more than I've had comment on other similar issues," Carney said of Filner.
He responded similarly when asked about Weiner, saying "there's plenty of coverage, plenty of stuff to cover without us commenting."
The White House's silence has drawn criticism from Republicans. Party officials say the president's team is being hypocritical given how quickly Democrats jumped on controversial comments about rape made by GOP candidates last year.
"Interesting how we're hearing crickets from the Democrats when it comes time to condemn activity from some of their own," said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
Indeed, Obama and his campaign advisers quickly denounced Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's assertion last year that women's bodies have ways to prevent pregnancy "if it's a legitimate rape." The president said the Republican congressman's comments were "offensive" and underscored a significant difference in approach to women's issues between Democrats and the GOP.
Obama's campaign was also highly critical of Richard Mourdock, who ran for the Senate from Indiana and said if a pregnancy results from rape, it is "something God intended to happen." The president's campaign said Mourdock's comments were "outrageous and demeaning to women."
Akin and Mourdock lost their respective races, while Obama ran up big margins among female voters in his contest against Republican Mitt Romney.
While the controversies surrounding Akin and Murdock focused on words, the spectacles involving Weiner and Filner center on actions.
Weiner, who is married, has vowed to stay in the New York mayor's race despite new revelations about sexually explicit messages he sent to several women. Filner, the mayor of the nation's eighth-largest city, says he will enter two weeks of "intensive" therapy as he battles a sexual harassment lawsuit from his former communications director, as well as detailed account of alleged advances by seven other women.
While the White House has stayed silent about both Democrats, other party leaders have not. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rebuked Weiner and Filner for "reprehensible" behavior and said both men should "get a clue."
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has also called for Filner to resign, saying his alleged misconduct is "reprehensible and indefensible." The chairwoman also backed Weiner's resignation from Congress two years ago.