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Todd Akin Has No Regrets About His Comments About ‘Legitimate Rape’

Todd Akin

Todd Akin, you will recall, mad e name for himself in 2012 when he responded to a question about his opposition to an exception to an abortion ban for rape victims by saying that victims of “legitimate rape” usually don’t get pregnant.  In addition to the rather obvious problems with female voters that these comments caused, and the fact that it inevitably meant that practically every Republican running for office would be asked to chime in on the subject, it turned out that there was absolutely no medical basis for the claim Akin made. Despite calls from many top Republicans, Akin ended up staying in the race, which he ultimately lost to Senator Claire McCaskill by more than 400,000 votes in state that many Republicans had thought they could win a Senate seat before Akin opened his mouth. In the immediate aftermath of his comments, Akin apologized for what he said, but of course that had no impact on the outcome of the race. Two years later, though, he’s out on a book tour and saying he has no regrets about what he said:

Todd Akin takes it back.

He’s not sorry.

Two years after the Missouri Republican’s comments on rape, pregnancy and abortion doomed his campaign and fueled a “war on women” message that carried Democrats to victory in the Senate, one of the few regrets he mentions in a new book is the decision to air a campaign ad apologizing for his remarks.

“By asking the public at large for forgiveness,” Akin writes, “I was validating the willful misinterpretation of what I had said.

And when it comes to his infamous line about rape and pregnancy, that “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he writes defiantly: “My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization. This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss,” Akin writes. “Doubt me? Google ‘stress and infertility,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject.”

“Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom” hits bookshelves July 15. An advance copy was provided to POLITICO by a source involved with the book.

Akin argues that he could have defeated Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, despite his comments, if it weren’t for the piling on from both liberals and conservatives. He compares his situation sympathetically to that of George Allen, who lost a Senate race in Virginia after calling a liberal tracker a racial slur. And he accuses liberals of hypocrisy for asking Bill Clinton to headline the Democratic National Convention.

(…)

Akin offers no apologies for his “legitimate rape” comment and blames liberal news media for how it was received. The liberal opposition research super PAC American Bridge dug up the video and sent it to Talking Points Memo, described as one of the “well-funded, left-leaning blogs.” Talking Points Memo posted the footage and started a firestorm.

Akin systematically defends every phrase in his response to whether abortion in the case of rape should be legal. “Taking my comments in order: When a woman claims to have been raped, the police determine if the evidence supports the legal definition of ‘rape.’ Is it a legitimate claim of rape or an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy?”

“My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization. This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google ‘stress and infertility,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject.”

To further make his case, Akin says he was hesitant to appear on a local Fox show hosted by Charles Jaco, where he made those comments, because the “hard-bitten liberal” could make the interview a “high-risk venture.” The fact that Jaco didn’t immediately pounce on his comments was because he heard them “in context with the various qualifiers.”

Akin later says during his time as a state legislator, he wished he could have done more to “end this evil,” referring to abortion, which in his view “easily trumps slavery as the greatest moral evil in American history.”

As Akin makes the case that he has “zero sympathy” for anyone who commits rape, he tries to illustrate his commitment by pointing to President Bill Clinton. Akin writes that if he had been in Congress in 1998 he would have voted to impeach Clinton. The investigation started, according to Akin, with allegations of sexual assault of Paula Jones, which then led investigators to learn about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. The impeachment involved Lewinsky, not sexual assault.

Akin writes that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney should have defended him by using Clinton’s indiscretions and alleged comment that one woman “put some ice on that” just as Clinton was set to serve as a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. In 2012, Romney denounced Akin’s comments and urged him to drop out of the race.

What Akin believes Romney should have said when asked about the “legitimate rape” comments: “[Bill Clinton] is giving the keynote speech at the Democratic convention in two weeks, and you want me to denounce a decent, God-fearing man for his inelegant comments about rape? No, not happening, and if the truth hurts, put some ice on it.”

Akin goes on, predictably, to blame the Republican “establishment” and the “liberal media” for what happened to him. The media because they allegedly took his remarks out of context and misrepresented him. The “establishment” because they both failed to come to his defense and spent the better part of the month of August 2012 trying to get him out of the race. He’s wrong on both counts, of course. Given the fact that they were reporting on what he said on a an interview show, captured on video, the idea that the media misrepresented anything Akin said is utterly absurd. He did in fact say that women who are raped are less likely to become pregnant. That comment became news both because it is objectively false and because it seemed to epitomize the problems that Republican candidates have with women voters in general Inevitably, the comments became a problem not only in Missouri, where Akin had been competitive with McCaskill in polling conducted prior to his comments, but also in other parts of the country where candidates going all the way up to Mitt Romney himself found that they now had to deal with Akin’s utterly ridiculous comments. Given that, and the fact that Akin seemed on a clear path to lose an election that the GOP was supposed to have had a good chance of winning,, it is not surprising at all that party leaders distanced themselves from Akin and called on him to resign and that outside groups decided not to spend any money on his behalf in the state. Rather than blaming the media or the Republican Party for what happened to him, Akin needs to look in the mirror.

Akin’s new defiant tone isn’t entirely surprising. If he has any plans to run for office in the future, this kind of an attitude will likely help him with a Republican base that, while it may have been embarressed by Akin’s comments, didn’t necessarily seem to disagree with them. It’s the same kind of victimization card that conservatives ranging from Sarah Palin to Allen West to the talk radio crowd have played so well over the past several years, so it will likely resonate with Akin’s intended audience. Even if he doesn’t have future political plans, rhetoric like this will likely help book sales and may even turn him into a frequent guest on conservative media outlets such as Fox News, where he’ll obviously get a much more friendly audience for whatever nonsense he decides to dish out than he would elsewhere. For the Republican Party as a whole, though, this can’t really come as good news. Akin’s comments are made for television, and he’s heading out on a book tour that is likely to bring him to both local media outlets around the country and national venues such as CNN and MSNBC. Just as we head into the midterm General Election cycle, voters will be reminded of this issue and Akin’s comments. It may not change the results of any election, but it will be used by those on the left to try to motivate voters to get to the polls to vote against Republicans. Generally speaking, that’s not something any political party wants to see happen.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    It may not change the results of any election, but it will be used by those on the left to try to motivate voters to get to the polls to vote against Republicans. Generally speaking, that’s not something any political party wants to see happen.

    It’s already changed at least one election.

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  2. CSK says:

    I swear, sometimes I think Sarah Palin and Todd Akin are Democratic Party operatives.

    Seriously, though, I think Akin, like Palin, is motivated far more by vindictiveness than “principle.” Both of them are angry and embittered that voters repudiated them, so they’ve decided to take it out on their own party. Sort of like: “If I can’t win, nobody else can win, either.”

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  3. @Ron Beasley:

    Fair point, but I was talking about 2014

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. CSK says:

    And as for Akin’s “proof” that women who are “legitimately” raped aren’t impregnated–how does he explain away all those women throughout history who gave birth nine months after being raped by the soldiers of an invading army?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  5. Moosebreath says:

    Doug,

    “It may not change the results of any election, but it will be used by those on the left to try to motivate voters to get to the polls to vote against Republicans. Generally speaking, that’s not something any political party wants to see happen.”

    Can you unpack the last sentence, please? It sounds like you are saying that neither political party wants to see Democratic voters motivated, which is of course not correct for the Democrats.

    Then there’s this combination of lines:

    “If he has any plans to run for office in the future, this kind of an attitude will likely help him with a Republican base that, while it may have been embarressed by Akin’s comments, didn’t necessarily seem to disagree with them.” and

    “He did in fact say that women who are raped are less likely to become pregnant. That comment became news both because it is objectively false …”

    It sounds like you are saying that Republican base voters not merely believe things which are objectively false, but want to be told them by their candidates. While that is something the more left-wing commentators here have said (myself included), it seems surprising that you would agree with them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Even in 2014 if it reminds women why they need to go to the polls, or in the case of Washington, Oregon and California to the mail box, I think it could sway some elections.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. rudderpedals says:

    Was Akin lying then or is Akin lying now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    @rudderpedals: I don’t think he’s lying as such. The scary thing is he actually believes this nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. ernieyeball says:

    @CSK:..Both of them are angry and embittered that voters repudiated them,..

    Yes they were both rejected by the voters in elections. And didn’t Princess 1/2 Term renounce herself when she abandoned the Citizens of The Last Frontier in July of 2009?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  10. CSK says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Probably he does. But there’s always a chance that he’s only promoting the idea because it suits his agenda, which is to end abortion for any reason whatsoever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. CSK says:

    @ernieyeball:

    Ah, well, if you ask one of her acolytes, she resigned for the good of Alaska. (Which may in fact be truer than she knows, or would be comfortable contemplating.)

    But you must understand that her resignation had nothing–absolutely NOTHING–to do with the fact that two months earlier she’d signed a multi-million dollar book contract and was negotiating for the reality show that would pay her another two million.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  12. Tillman says:

    The everpresent “lamestream media” or “the mainstream media has a liberal bias” memes allow people to react to events that should shame them with defiance. Instead of feeling humiliation and reconsidering their positions, they retrench into them further, confident that what repudiated them was a massive conspiracy to undermine their values not shared by a silent majority of voters.

    It remains the depressing reality that, at least on the public stage, two halves of the country can’t seem to agree on basic facts. I imagine there was similar decadence in Rome before it went down in flames. (The third or fourth time.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  13. Stonetools says:

    One of the problems here is the media’s extreme reluctance to call any side wrong. They are so dedicated to the “evenhanded ” approach that they’ll probably report the story as “opinions differ about rape”.
    As to Akins he can look forward to a lucrative career on the right wing circuit complaining about how “librul” media misrepresented him and how he is just calling about a return to “traditional morality”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  14. MikeSJ says:

    Akin comes to this position because he wants to ban abortion under all circumstances. The issue with pregnancy from rape is solved by him and his kind by simply believing women don’t become pregnant if “legitimately raped”

    This belief isn’t just some random kookiness from a lone right winger but part of a much broader attempt to move legislation. I know if sounds nutty to those outside the right wing club but for many of these people this stuff is taken as gospel.

    I expect to see this nonsense bubble up from the fever swamps again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  15. wr says:

    @CSK: “And as for Akin’s “proof” that women who are “legitimately” raped aren’t impregnated–how does he explain away all those women throughout history who gave birth nine months after being raped by the soldiers of an invading army?”

    It just means they were sluts who wanted it all along, and thus deserved to get pregnant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  16. Moderate Mom says:

    I think the Democrats flogging Hobby Lobby will do a lot more to get their base to the polls than something some crack pot also ran says. He’s about as relevant as Sarah Palin. Perhaps if the media didn’t give her a megaphone her fifteen minutes might finally end and she might be quiet and just enjoy life with her family.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  17. grumpy realist says:

    @Moderate Mom: Sarah has discovered that there’s gold in them thar hills….

    Once a grifter, aways a grifter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  18. Tony W says:

    @wr: Indeed, No True Scotsman….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  19. The Olde Man says:

    Well shucks, when Palin was governor, she underwent a siege of ethics complaints, all except one thrown out (and that one was based on faulty legal advice, ) costing the State a couple of million bucks of employee time and her family several hundred thousands in legal fees.

    The goal was to pauperize her and/or drive her from office. it worked. If the complainant had had to bear the cost of complaints that were thrown out, history would have been a lot different. As it was, the charges were free. I think they ran to nearly 20 before Palin gave it up. Pretty cheap to change the course of history at the cost of 20 postage stamps.

    She got to where she got without the help of a Sugar Daddy. And some people seem to hold that against her. Just like they trashed Dean and Stewart, also self made women.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  20. DrDaveT says:

    As usual, with Akin it’s hard to know whether to hope that he’s sincere but incredibly gullible*, or whether he’s a sociopathic vote whore who perceives a constituency to be exploited. Missouri Republicans, take note — these are your alternatives. Think hard about that.

    *I say ‘gullible’ rather than ‘stupid’ because, if he’s that stupid, he’s not going to come up with this particular gem on his own. This has all the earmarks of having swallowed someone else’s hateful nonsense — hook, line, and sinker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. al-Ameda says:

    To Akin facts are irrelevant. His goal is the abolition of abortion, so whatever it takes to get there is what motivates Akin. He ran into trouble when he had to reach an electorate beyond his home district. He believes what he said, he’s sorry that we don’t believe as he does, not that what he said was objectively wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  22. grumpy realist says:

    @The Olde Man: Honey, if all you draw from Palin, Dean, and Stewart was that people went after them because they were “self-made women”, you got a problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  23. PAUL HOOSON says:

    If a sitcom needs a goofy uncle or crazy next door neighbor, then central casting could not have found a better choice….I’m waiting for the Tea Party to announce “April Fool’s” soon, and tell us what a big joke this has all been with so many crazed and wacky personalities which have provided this country with plenty of laughs and been a real gift to the late night comics. Canada has Mayor Rob Ford, but we have the Tea Party. I guess this is bigger country, so we do things bigger here…including the comedy!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. socraticsilence says:

    @The Olde Man:

    So you’re saying people in Alaska did the same phony scandals thing Republicans have done against every Democratic president in a quarter century?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Franklin says:

    “My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization.

    Even if he isn’t lying about what his comments were “directed to” (sorry, I’m a bit flustered by the unusual wording here; I usually direct comments to people, not to the basis of those comments) … anyway, even if he isn’t lying, he’s suggesting that it is such an extreme effect that basically nobody gets pregnant from rape, and therefore there shouldn’t be an abortion exception for rape victims.

    This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google ‘stress and infertility,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject.”

    Sorry, Akin, I’m not very good with the Google. Please send me one of those “Let Me Google That For You” links so I can see the evidence that nobody gets pregnant from rape. Because we went over this last time, and we couldn’t find anything that supports or even hints towards supporting your position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Moosebreath says:

    @Franklin:

    “he’s suggesting that it is such an extreme effect that basically nobody gets pregnant from rape, and therefore there shouldn’t be an abortion exception for rape victims.”

    Yes, that was the context for his comments. This arose because he was questioned why he did not support a rape exception to abortion prohibitions, and this was his response.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0