By Francesca Trianni
NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the latest sideshow in Anthony Weiner's bid to become New York City's mayor, he called Republican candidate George McDonald "grandpa", McDonald then called Weiner a "punk", and AARP, the group for Americans over 50 that brought them together, said Weiner's remark was "unfortunate."
Tensions between Weiner, 48, and McDonald intensified during a debate last week when McDonald called Weiner a "self-pleasuring freak." On Tuesday, the two clashed when Weiner tapped his opponent on the chest to greet him at an AARP candidates' forum.
"Don't put your hands on me ever again," McDonald said.
Weiner told McDonald he had "anger issues."
"I don't have any anger issues," McDonald replied.
"Yes, you do, grandpa," Weiner said.
NY1 television caught the exchange on camera.
A long-shot candidate for mayor, McDonald, 69, has repeatedly bashed Weiner over the former congressman's "sexting" history. Weiner has admitted to sending lewd pictures to women online since he resigned from Congress in 2011 over similar behavior.
Weiner, who is trying to resurrect his political career, was leading polls in the run-up to the Democratic Party primary when revelations surfaced in July that he had sent sexually explicit messages to at least one woman. He is now in fourth place.
Weiner refused to apologize for his remark to McDonald.
"He talks about his granddaughter in every answer to questions on the campaign trail, so I was making a reference to that," Weiner told WWRL radio on Wednesday.
McDonald responded by calling Weiner a bully and a punk.
"Weiner thinks he can bully seniors, exploit young women and do it all with a glib smile on his face," McDonald said in a statement on Wednesday. "I'm not going to sit quietly by while this punk tries to push people around."
AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel criticized Weiner's comment.
"Nearly one quarter of New York's 50-plus voters say they have experienced unwelcome comments about their age and nearly half are concerned about age discrimination," Finkel said in a statement on Wednesday. "A person's age should not be a factor in politics, or anything else."
The party primary elections are set for September 10 and the general election is scheduled for November 5.
(Reporting by Francesca Trianni; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Chris Reese)