(CNN) – Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri said he was wrong and apologized Monday afternoon for claiming that "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in pregnancy.
"I made that statement in error. Let me be clear. Rape is never legitimate. It's an evil act, and it's committed by violent predators," the Republican congressman said on Mike Huckabee's radio show.
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Akin continued: "I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill conceived and it was wrong. For that I apologize."
While answering a question Sunday about whether he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape, Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed medical mechanisms he said prevented pregnancy.
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said of rape-induced pregnancy in an interview with KTVI. A clip of the interview was posted online by the liberal super PAC American Bridge.
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin continued. The congressman, known for his socially conservative values, did not provide an explanation for what constituted "legitimate rape."
But echoing a statement he released Sunday night, Akin said Monday he misspoke and meant to say "forcible" rape, not "legitimate."
Further, he acknowledged that women "do become pregnant" for rape.
"I also know that people do become pregnant for rape and I didn't mean to imply that that wasn't the case. It does happen, and it's also terrible, particularly the most terrible of all," he said.
Many Republicans have quickly distanced themselves from the congressman, who's currently running as the GOP Senate nominee in a heated battle against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Mitt Romney harshly condemned the comments Monday, while Republican Sen. Scott Brown called for Akin to step down from his position as the nominee.
Asked Monday if he has plans to leave the Senate race, Akin said he's not a "quitter."
"I don't know that I'm the only person in public office who suffered from foot in mouth disease here," the congressman said. "On the other hand there are so many good people in Missouri who nominated me."
Akin said he's focused on the economy and feels "just as strongly as ever" that his background would be a "big asset" in replacing McCaskill.
"I'm not a quitter. My belief is we're going to take this thing forward, and by the grace of God we're going to...win this race," he said.
"When you make a mistake what you need to do is tell people you're sorry. Don't try and hide it. Don't lie about it. Don't try to cover it up," he added. "But just because somebody makes a mistake doesn't make them useless."
– CNN's Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.