"Sen. Dan Inouye is a hero who's fought for Hawaii for generations, and to hear fellow Democrat Ben Cayetano insult him in the way he did is very disappointing," said John White, executive director of Pacific Resource Partnership, which represents more than 200 contractors across the state.
"Sen. Inouye has been listening to the government, and he's never listened to the people," Cayetano said Wednesday. "He's out of touch as far as I'm concerned. I respect Sen. Inouye; he's done a lot for our country and for our state, but we shouldn't defer to him."
In response to Cayetano's comments, PRP created a website called BeNiceBen.com, which went live Friday at noon. The website asked visitors to sign a petition, urging Cayetano to "show more respect" and refrain from "mean-spirited personal attacks."
However, in a discussion with reporters Friday afternoon, Cayetano did not back away from his comments.
"What's offensive about saying that someone is misinformed?" said Cayetano. "I don't understand that. It happens all the time in debates and in politics."
Inouye released a statement Friday criticizing Cayetano's choice of words.
"I was deeply offended by the statements and negative tactics attributed to Governor Cayetano," said the senator. "The race for Honolulu Mayor should be about the issues facing our city, and in these serious times there is no need for personal attacks."
In standing by his comments, Cayetano also accused White and PRP of engaging in dirty politics. He said a half-dozen of his supporters had been solicited by push polling, where questioners "push" negative information about a targeted candidate.