ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe (@shushwalshe) reports:
When you are running for president, taking on the incumbent is standard stump on the campaign trail. But after Vice President Joe Biden reportedly said that Tea Party legislators “acted like terrorists” during the debt-ceiling negotiations, which he has denied saying, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders –and those still thinking about jumping in — are taking on the second-in-command.
At this point in the campaign, Mitt Romney is the GOP frontrunner and his spokesperson Andrea Saul criticized the alleged "terrorist" comment.
“It's reprehensible. Decent Americans who are concerned about the future of their country should not be characterized in ugly and unflattering terms by the White House,” Saul told ABC News.
At a meeting with House Democrats Monday, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., reportedly told the vice president that "the Tea Party acted like terrorists in threatening to blow up the economy” before Biden repeated the phrase several times. Politico reported that Biden replied, “They have acted like terrorists.”
Biden quickly denied ever using the phrase, telling CBS News’ Scott Pelley that he “did not use the terrorism word.”
"What happened was there were some people who said they felt like they were being held hostage by terrorists," Biden said. "I never said that they were terrorists or weren't terrorists, I just let them vent. I said, 'Even if that were the case, what's been happening when you now have taken and paid the debt and move that down so we can now discuss, the nuclear weapon's been taken out of anyone's hands.'"
Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the vice president’s office, said, “The word was used by several members of Congress. The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.”
Of course, the denials didn’t stop the criticism from those wanting to replace President Obama.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota demanded an apology from Biden in a letter sent to supporters, also asking for campaign donations at the same time. "Fighting for our nation’s economic health and stability does not make one a terrorist. Today's remarks were irresponsible and unacceptable,” Bachmann wrote.
Bachmann opened her letter criticizing not just Biden, but Washington D.C.
“Only in the bizarro world of Washington is fiscal responsibility sometimes defined as terrorism,” the fundraising letter read. “Our belief that America should live within its means and not spend more than it takes in distinguishes us as patriots who love our country, not to be equated with the terrorists whose sole aim is to destroy it.”
Bachmann’s letter was also the first 2012-er hoping to raise money off the disputed remark. She ends the appeal asking supporters to sign a petition demanding an apology from Biden and then asks backers to open their wallets as well.
“Fighting for our nation’s economic health and stability does not make one a terrorist. Today's remarks were irresponsible and unacceptable,” Bachmann wrote. “After signing the petition please consider making a contribution of $25, $50, $100 or any amount up to the legal $2,500 limit to ensure I have the funds necessary to fight back."
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who hasn’t announced a run, also went after Biden Monday evening, saying on Fox News, "To be called a terrorist because of our beliefs from the vice president, it's quite appalling, it's quite vile."
"I think we're getting kind of used to being called names — racists, inciters of violence, being accused of things that we having nothing to do with," Palin told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren. "I suppose it's a bit more appalling to have been called acting like terrorists by he who is second in command of the most powerful office in the world. It's quite appalling. It proves how out of touch this White House is."
While on his campaign tour of Iowa, Rick Santorum tweeted his disapproval Monday evening of Biden’s disputed comments and, like Bachmann, also demanded an apology.
“Leaving a packed townhall n Clinton [Iowa]. Saw Biden's comment on Tea Party. No surprise he hasn't been right bout terrorism in yrs,” the former Pennsylvania senator tweeted before asking the vice president to apologize. “Seriously Joe — this is beneath you and your office. Apologize and mean it.”
Tea Party activist and pizza mogul Herman Cain also took to twitter to blast Biden, tweeting Monday, “VP Biden likening the Tea Party to "terrorists" is another example of how disconnected this administration is from reality.”
The other presidential contenders have yet to weigh in on the reported comments.
ABC News' Sheila Marikar contributed to this story