The rival presidential campaigns of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama accused each other of nasty politics Wednesday over a Hollywood donor who once backed Bill Clinton but now supports Obama.
Amid the Democrats' accusations in tit-for-tat news releases, Clinton tried to remain above the fray.
"I'm just going to stay focused on my campaign and I'm going to run a positive campaign about the issues that affect the people in our country," she said in a brief interview with The Associated Press.
The Clinton campaign sent out a testy news release after DreamWorks movie studio co-founder David Geffen, a fan of Obama, told The New York Times that Clinton was ambitious and polarizing.
"CLINTON CAMP TO OBAMA: CUT TIES & RETURN CASH AFTER TOP BOOSTERS VICIOUS ATTACKS," screamed the headline of the news release.
Geffen hosted a $1.3 million fundraiser for Obama on Tuesday.
Hollywood's embrace of the Illinois senator didn't sit well with Clinton, according to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
"Hillary loyalists have hissed at defecting donors to remember the good old days of jumping on the Lincoln Bedroom bed," Dowd wrote.
"Hillary is livid that Obama's getting the first big fund-raiser here," she quoted a friend of Clinton as saying.
Dowd sized up the situation thusly: "Who can pay attention to the Oscar battle between 'The Queen' and 'Dreamgirls' when you've got a political battle between a Queen and a Dreamboy?"
The Clinton campaign used the comments to try to recast Obama into just another politician who preaches against nasty politics while his supporters practice it, reports CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger.
The campaign argued that Geffen's words amounted to "slash and burn" politics.
"By refusing to disavow the statement of his leading supporter in California, Senator Obama has called into question whether or not he really believes his own rhetoric," Howard Wolfson, Clinton's communications director, told CBS News.
Geffen was once a top donor to President Clinton. But he said in the interview that Clinton is "a reckless guy," and he doesn't think Sen. Clinton can bring the country together during a time of war, no matter how smart or ambitious she is.
The senator was asked about Geffen's comments as she appeared in front of a Democratic candidates' forum in Nevada. "I believe Bill Clinton was a good president, and I'm very proud of the record of his two terms," she said to raucous applause from the partisan audience.
The Obama campaign declined to denounce Geffen or give back any money and issued its own statement in response, criticizing Clinton.
"We aren't going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters," Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said in a statement. "It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when he was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln Bedroom."
Gibbs added another criticism of Clinton.
"It is also ironic that Sen. Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina state Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because 'he's black,'" Gibbs' statement said.
Ford drew widespread criticism for his comment and later apologized. The Clinton campaign said it disagreed with Ford, but the senator has embraced his support.
Gibbs' statement brought another response from the Clinton camp.
"How can Senator Obama denounce the politics of slash and burn yesterday while his own campaign is espousing the politics of trash today?" Wolfson asked in a news release.
Geffen issued a two-sentence statement in which he corrected Wolfson's characterization of him as Obama's finance director. Geffen has no official role with the campaign, other than hosting one of its fundraisers. Geffen added that he was accurately quoted in the Times and said the comments "reflect solely my personal beliefs regarding the Clintons."
Fundraising is critical to the candidates, underscored by an appeal from former President Clinton to raise $1 million in netroots contributions over the next week for his wife's candidacy.
"All across the country, Hillary is campaigning with the signature wisdom, grace, and humor that make her a great candidate," he said in the letter. "I know that if we all work hard enough, those same traits will make her an even better president."
The former president, who is pictured on the letter with his arms wrapped lovingly around his wife, also warns that "with Republicans using everything in their arsenal to stop her campaign, Hillary is going to need every one of us to do everything that we can for her."