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MSNBC's Chelsea Comment Angers Clinton

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BETH FOUHY | February 8, 2008 10:58 PM EST | AP

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SEATTLE — A distasteful comment about Chelsea Clinton by an MSNBC anchor could imperil Hillary Rodham Clinton's participation in future presidential debates on the network, a Clinton spokesman said.

In a conference call with reporters, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson on Friday excoriated MSNBC's David Shuster for suggesting the Clinton campaign had "pimped out" 27-year old Chelsea by having her place phone calls to celebrities and Democratic Party "superdelegates" on her mother's behalf.

Wolfson called Shuster's comment "beneath contempt" and disgusting.

"I, at this point, can't envision a scenario where we would continue to engage in debates on that network," he added.

MSNBC said Shuster, who apologized on the air for his comment, has been temporarily suspended from appearing on all NBC news broadcasts except to offer his apology.

"NBC News takes these matters seriously, and offers our sincere regrets to the Clintons for the remarks," MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said, adding the network was hopeful the debate would take place as planned.

Clinton and Obama are scheduled to participate in an MSNBC debate Feb. 26 from Ohio, which holds its primary March 4. The Clinton campaign has pushed hard for as many debates as possible with Obama, but Wolfson said the Feb. 26 debate could be jeopardized.

Wolfson pointed to what he called a pattern of tasteless comments by MSNBC anchors about the Clinton campaign. Weeks ago, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews apologized to the former first lady after suggesting her political career had been made possible by her husband's philandering.

Shuster told The Associated Press he has tried to reach Clinton to apologize.

Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama, called Shuster's comments "deplorable" and said they had no place in the political process.

Superdelegates are elected officials and other members of the Democratic National Committee who serve as upledged delegates to the party's convention. They're expected to play an important role in selecting the party's nominee if the delegate contest between Clinton and Barack Obama remains close.