The White House said on Tuesday that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was "out of bounds" when she compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation and harshly criticized the Bush administration.
Clinton, speaking at a ceremony in Harlem honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, said that Republicans had run the House "like a plantation" in which dissent or ideas from the minority party were not tolerated.
Republicans responded within hours, accusing her of trying to score political points with divisive and racially charged language. But several prominent black leaders quickly came to her defense.
On Tuesday, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, expressed dismay when asked about Clinton's characterization of the Republican-led House, as well as about another comment she made at the ceremony, that the Bush administration "will go down in history as one of the worst" to run the nation.
"I think they were way out of line," McClellan said.
But Clinton's advisers fired back at the White House.
"What's out of line is a White House that defends [Republican Representative] Tom DeLay's innocence and the corruption in the Republican House of Representatives," said Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman.
Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, was also critical on Tuesday of Clinton's speech and style.
"When she speaks to the Senate, she uses very moderate terms and very low modulation and is very good. When she goes to events like this one and starts hollering and using this sort of, just vicious kind of language, I think it really is a you know, you wind up having to apologize for it," he told MSNBC.