U.S. Senate candidate says he won't quit race over rape remarks
Published Monday, August 20, 2012 12:27PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 20, 2012 10:29PM EDT
Missouri Congressman Todd Akin says he’s apologetic but won’t bow out of the race for the United States Senate after suggesting that women’s bodies can prevent pregnancies in “legitimate rape” situations.
“People do become pregnant from rape and I didn’t mean to imply that that wasn’t the case. It does happen,” Akin told radio host Mike Huckabee on Monday.
He also apologized for using the phrase “legitimate rape” saying that he intended to use the phrase “forcible rape,” a controversial term that critics say appears to exclude statutory offences and situations where the victim has been drugged.
“A rape is equally tragic,” Akin said Monday. “And I made that statement in error. Let me be clear: Rape is never legitimate. It’s an evil act.”
Akin’s about-face comes as many in the Republican Senate nominee’s own party attempt to distance themselves from his suggestion that when it comes to pregnancy from rape “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement Sunday, distancing his campaign from Akin’s comments.
"Governor Romney and Congressman (Paul) Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney spokesperson Amanda Henneberg said.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the comments make clear why politicians should not make health decisions for women.
"Rape is rape" Obama said, adding that making a distinction among different types of rape, "doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me."
The six-term congressman made the comments in a Sunday interview with KTVI-TV in St. Louis. He also told the station that he understood pregnancy from rape is “really rare,” citing information he gleaned from doctors.
The comments prompted both outrage and mockery, and Akin first released a statement Sunday night saying that he “misspoke” during the interview and has “deep empathy” for women who are raped and abused.
In that statement, he also said that he believes “deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”
Akin won his Republican nomination by a wide margin. During the campaign, Akin and Huckabee appeared together in television ads in which the latter, a former Arkansas governor, called Akin “a courageous conservative,” and a “Bible-based “Christian” who “defends the unborn.”
The backlash against Akin’s interview included calls for the congressman to quit the Senate race.
Insisting that he’s “not a quitter,” Akin said Monday he won’t be taking his name off the ballot.
“I don’t know that I’m the only person in public office who has suffered from ‘foot in mouth’ disease here,” said Akin, adding that he made a “very, very serious error.”
Akin also said no one from the Republican Party has asked him to drop out of the race.
However, at least two Republican senators, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said he should quit the campaign. As well, a source told The Associated Press that the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has withdrawn $5 million in advertising that had been allocated for Missouri.
The Republicans are hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in a tight race that could allow them to gain control of the Senate in November.
On Sunday, McCaskill issued a statement saying that it is “beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape."
With files from The Associated Press