NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday accused Republican John McCain's campaign of using "lies and phony outrage and Swift-boat politics" in claiming he used a sexist comment against vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Calling it "the latest made-up controversy by the John McCain campaign," Obama responded to the Republicans' charge that he was referring to Palin when he used the phrase "lipstick on a pig" at a campaign stop Tuesday.
"I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and Swift-boat politics. Enough is enough," he said.
Obama's reference was to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an outside group that in 2004 made unsubstantiated allegations about Democratic nominee John Kerry's decorated military record in Vietnam.
On Tuesday, Obama criticized McCain's economic policies as similar to those of President Bush, saying: "You can put lipstick on a pig ... it's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."
The McCain campaign contended that the comments were directed at Palin, the GOP's first woman on a presidential ticket. In her acceptance speech last week, she had referred to herself in a joke about lipstick being the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull.
Accusing Obama of "smearing" Palin in "offensive and disgraceful" comments, the McCain campaign demanded an apology - though McCain himself used the folksy metaphor a few times last year, including once to describe Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan.
The McCain campaign on Wednesday issued an Internet ad that said Obama was talking about Palin and said of Obama: "Ready to lead? No. Ready to smear? Yes."
Obama began a discussion of education at a Norfolk high school on Wednesday by assailing McCain's campaign.
"What their campaign has done this morning is the same game that has made people sick and tired of politics in this country. They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad because they know that it's catnip for the news media," Obama said.
Obama's campaign has accused the GOP camp of engaging in a "pathetic attempt to play the gender card." In an e-mail to reporters Wednesday, the campaign noted two other instances of McCain using the phrase "lipstick on a pig" and its use by other Republicans such as House Minority Leader John Boehner and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl.