August 20th, 2012
03:50 PM ET
6 years ago

Akin stays in race despite conservative outlash, Romney says 'I can't defend him'

(CNN) - Mitt Romney on Monday advanced his criticism of Republican Rep. Todd Akin, saying he could not defend the Senate candidate over his controversial remarks about rape and pregnancy.

In an interview with New Hampshire television station WMUR, Romney said Akin "should spend 24 hours considering what will best help the country at this critical time," according to a tweet by the station's political director Josh McElveen.

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"I can't defend what he said, I can't defend him," Romney also said, according McElveen's Twitter feed.

His comment comes after a major Republican campaign group–the National Republican Senatorial Committee–signaled it would pull funding from Akin's Senate bid in Missouri against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. The group's chairman, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, suggested in a statement that Akin "carefully consider what is best" in terms of his next step.

In an interview with the National Review Online published earlier Monday, Romney said that Akin's "comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong."

"Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive," Romney said, adding: "I have an entirely different view. What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it."

Later Monday, the same news outlet-National Review Online-called on the congressman to resign from his position as Senate nominee in an editorial titled, "Step Aside, Todd Akin,"

Adding to the drumbeat of intra-party criticism, some Republicans in Tampa, ahead of next week's Republican National Convention, expressed their frustration about Akin's comments.

A Republican National Committee member from a critical swing state predicted that a likely win in the Missouri Senate contest was now in jeopardy. As for the presidential campaign, the RNC member noted that Akin's remarks have caused an unnecessary distraction for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

"It is a terrible distraction in a Senate race that we were poised to win," said the RNC member, who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity. "Akin needs to do the right thing and quietly leave the ballot.

"It has also changed the national conversation back to this supposed Republican faux war on women. That is not where Gov. Romney and his ticket want to spend their time on between now and November 6."

A senior Republican with strong ties to Missouri said Republicans are concerned that Akin will not be allowed to be removed from the ballot even if he succumbs to pressure and asks to be removed from the ballot.

"What was he thinking," said the Republican, who noted that regardless of what happens the GOP will now be sending a weakened Senate candidate into the November election.

On the other hand, top officials from the conservative group Family Research Council came to Akin's defense on Monday.

Connie Mackey, who heads the group's political action committee, said the group "strongly supports" Todd Akin.

"We feel this is a case of gotcha politics," Mackey told reporters in Tampa, where the Republican National Committee was gathering ahead of the party's convention next week. "He has been elected five times in that community in Missouri. They know who Todd Akin is. We know who Todd Akin is. We've worked with him up on the hill. He's a defender of life."

On Sunday, Akin said in a local TV interview that "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in 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," he added.

Following a resulting firestorm over his comments–from Republicans and Democrats alike–Akin apologized Monday afternoon during an interview on Mike Huckabee's radio show.

"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," he said. "I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill conceived and it was wrong. For that I apologize."

However, the Missouri Republican said he would not be backing down in his fight for the Senate seat.

"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 this race," he said.

Hours after the interview, Akin stood by his pledge to stay in the contest.

"I am in this race to win. We need a conservative Senate," Akin posted on Twitter, urging supporters to donate to his campaign.

His spokesman, Ryan Hite, further reiterated Akin's vow to continue his campaign.

"Akin is not dropping out of this race," Hite told CNN.

- CNN's Mark Preston, Peter Hamby, Chris Welch, Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Missouri • Mitt Romney • Senate
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Annie, Atlanta

    I would have thought we would be going forward instead of backwards on women's issues. Put the GOP in charge, and this is what you get. The bigotry against anything and anyone "other" is stunning. The war on women is an affront to my sensibilities. Good grief, where are we heading?

    August 20, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Annie, Atlanta

    Oops, forgot to add – Women, what are we thinking voting for people like this? This is not acceptable. What is it with the daze we're in where this has become acceptable.

    August 20, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. harvey 60

    He should immediately resign from the House of Representatives and drop out of the Senate race. If he fails to do so, a resolution should be brought to the floor of the House to seek his expulsion. Let all Republican House members, including Paul Ryan, go on record for or against this imbecile.

    August 20, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    ""I can't defend what he said, I can't defend him," "

    Apparently, Mittens can't effectively castigate him for what he said either though. Hmmm...wonder why that is....

    August 20, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. gwats

    From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Akins just spoke from the evil in his heart and soul. Why would any woman anywhere want anything to do with him, or the party he carries the standard for?

    August 20, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  6. GOP = Greed Over People

    Guess that means you cannot defend your running mate that co-sponsored Akin's personhood bill, right?

    August 20, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  7. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Republicans have to be having a hard time defending Romney and his 'pants on fire' campaign.

    August 20, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. American People

    The GOP plan for the American People: Turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Unemployed, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Employed, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military.

    August 20, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. ghostriter

    Don't back down. We need as many loser republicans running as possible.

    If repulblicans keep this up, democrats won't have much of a problem in Nov.

    August 20, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  10. joe

    What a wonderful spectacle. Republicans running away from Republican "science."

    August 20, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  11. kellieB

    Akin is an idiot,
    He belongs in the Senate.
    Every time one of our "leaders" issues such a stupid utterance ( and they do that often) they just add another nail to their coffin and more reason to vote them all out.

    August 20, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  12. Victoria

    Um, no. CNN. He has already said he's dropping out. Way, way too late with the news here, as usual.

    August 20, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |

    "I can't defend what he said, I can't defend him,"
    But you intend to end Planned Parenthood Willard. Then you you selected an extreme pro-life candidate as your running mate whose views are very similar to Mr. Akin's Willard. You can't walk away from the extremism and misogyny in YOUR party Willard. Now where are those darn tax returns????

    August 20, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. Konyagi

    I support Mitt Romney but he has a rather random crew around him

    August 20, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. Lee

    OMG "legitimate rape" can prevent pregnancy. Akin is a disgrace to the human race.

    August 20, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    "I cannot defend him." What Mitt Romney did not say is more significant than what he said.

    "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive," Romney said, adding: "I have an entirely different view. What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it."

    Where is the call for him to get out of the Senate race? It doesn't matter what the actual topic of the controversy is. The guy's a loose cannon, and needs to thrown under the bus the same way that Sen. Brown did it. But, that means that Romney would have to take a firm position on an issue, which seems impossible for him to do. Romney has the measure the wind direction before he'll commit to a firm position, and then he will do it weakly.

    "I cannot defend him."

    August 20, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. Samn

    Truth about the extreamist republican ideology just slipped out from Akin. Although all those republicans try to distance them from what this tea party candidate Akin said, the truth is what they believe is not so far out. Akin just went a tiny little further than the general belief of these extreamist ideas the current republican party entertain. Now they are scared it will hurt them. Sometimes the truth hurts. But they can not hide it forever.

    August 20, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  18. Tex71

    Romney "can't defend" Akin? He makes it sound as if he would like to defend him if he only knew how. Romney will have to use much stronger language if he wants to get far enough from Akin to avoid sharing in his social leprosy.

    August 20, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Personhood Mittens would have said the same thing if this was the primary.

    August 20, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |

    "Akin stays in race despite conservative outlash, Romney says 'I can't defend him'"
    Flip Flop McGee will be supporting him by tomorrow or next week

    August 20, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  21. xirume

    Yes, they are distancing themselves from this sorry wretch like Albert Speer distanced himself from the Nazis. All for show while they agree with him under the table.

    August 20, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  22. Dann

    So this is being defined as "gotcha politics." It's not like this was a trick question. What is astounding is the profound ignorance regarding pregnancy.

    August 20, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  23. Mark

    Anyone who thinks that rape is not sufficient grounds for abortion needs to have their head examined. Republicans have already blown it, with their half-heated denials. The ONLY chance they had to avoid nationwide damage was to LOUDLY and IMMEDIATELY castigate this guy, drop him like a hot potato. and make instantly clear that "he is not one of us". Anything less would be pounced on and paraded by the Democrats as "proof" of Republican backwardness ... and it was. Repubs, if this costs you the November election I will be seriously ticked off at your political tone-deafness.

    August 20, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  24. dick Delson

    Akin iss an idiot and should be r sent off to a nut house.

    August 20, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  25. once upon a horse

    "I can't defend him" says Romney? Why in the heck would you WANT to defend him?? But I guess that's better than saying "Not the words I would have used" when he "defended" Rush Limbaugh's attack a few months ago. What a hack!

    August 20, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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