Speaking about his early days running for office in the Ohio Legislature, John Kasich referred to women "who left their kitchens" to help him.
"How did I get elected?” he told a town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, today, referring to campaigning decades ago. "Nobody was -- I didn't have anybody for me. We just got an army of people, who, and many women, who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and to put yard signs up for me. All the way back, when, you know, things were different."
He added: "Now you call homes and everybody's out working. But at that time, early days, it was an army of the women that really helped me get elected to the state Senate."
Kasich, currently the governor of Ohio, first ran for state Senate in Ohio in 1978.
On Sunday, he signed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio, drawing condemnation from Democrats and a question from a town hall attendee who brought up his comment about “kitchens.”
"I’ll come out to support you, but I won't be coming out of the kitchen,” the woman told him.
As criticism of Kasich's comments today grew on social media and television, a spokesman for the governor referred to the blowback as “desperate politics."
“John Kasich’s campaigns have always been homegrown affairs,” the spokesman, Rob Nichols, said. "They’ve literally been run out of his friends’ kitchens and many of his early campaign teams were made up of stay-at-home moms who believed deeply in the changes he wanted to bring to them and their families. That’s real grassroots campaigning and he’s proud of that authentic support.
"To try and twist his comments into anything else is just desperate politics," Nichols said.
While speaking to reporters this afternoon, Kasich defended the remark. "When I was I was a new candidate, I did what I do now, which is to have a lot of town halls, but they weren’t in town halls, they were in kitchens and they were in living rooms, and a big chunk of people who helped me in my early days and throughout my career and even up until now have been women,” he told reporters at The Miller Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He added: "I’ll be a little bit more careful, but I’ll continue to operate on a high wire without a net. And frankly, I'd like to see everyone who is running for president get out of the scripted role and start to be real and take questions."
A handful of student protesters greeted Kasich outside a town hall meeting he held at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, Virginia. "Today I left my kitchen, because Kasich has no vision,” chanted the protesters, who were organized by Virginia’s Democratic Party.
As the protests continued, Kasich took to the airwaves and apologized.
"I’m sorry anybody who’s offended, of course,” Kasich said in an interview on CNN. "Of course, I’m more than happy to say I’m sorry if I offended somebody out there, but it wasn’t intended to be offensive.”
Kasich greeted by protesters in Richmond: "I left the kitchen to come to this protest!" pic.twitter.com/iadbR6K01k— Ben Gittleson (@bgittleson) February 22, 2016