Dems seize upon Akin remarks as questions about Ryan's position surface
August 20th, 2012
10:18 AM ET
2 years ago

Dems seize upon Akin remarks as questions about Ryan's position surface

(CNN) - Republicans began distancing themselves from U.S. Rep. Todd Akin late Sunday and Monday after the Missouri congressman and candidate for Senate claimed "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in pregnancy.

Akin was explaining his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape, a viewpoint he shares with other conservative members of the Republican Party, including Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate.

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A spokeswoman for Romney's campaign released a statement indicating the presumptive GOP nominee and his running mate disagreed with Akin's remarks, which were made in an interview with KTVI.

"Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.

And Romney himself, in an interview with the National Review Online, 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."

The Romney-Ryan campaign says the Wisconsin lawmaker has long personally maintained an opposition to abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is at risk. However, he has supported legislation that would allow exceptions for pregnancy in the case of rape, incest, or when a mother's life is at risk.

Ryan co-sponsored a bill in the House last year that bestowed "personhood" rights on fertilized embryos, which would allow states or Congress to determine the legality of abortions.

A Romney campaign official said that the House Budget chairman's personal view remain unchanged, but that the position of the ticket reflected Romney's stance - that abortion should be legal in cases of rape.

Akin, who won a three-way GOP primary earlier this month to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in November's general election, said Sunday that he "misspoke" when he made the comments on "legitimate rape," though he maintained his opposition to abortion in all cases.

Brian Walsh, the communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote in an e-mail that "Congressman Akin did the right thing by quickly correcting the record and acknowledging that he misspoke."

Walsh said the election would be a referendum on McCaskill's voting record and support for the president's agenda.

Fellow Republicans, however, began distancing themselves from Akin, an indication of how harmful his remarks are being regarded by members of his own party.

"As a pro-life conservative, a husband, and a father of two young women, I find Representative Akin's remarks to be offensive and reprehensible," Rep. Dennis Rehberg of Montana, also running for U.S. Senate, wrote in a statement Sunday. "There is no such thing as a 'legitimate rape.' I condemn Representative Akin's statements in the strongest possible terms."

Sarah Steelman, the former state treasurer who was among Akin's challengers for the GOP Senate nomination in Missouri, also decried his remarks, writing on Twitter, "Todd Akin's remarks about 'legitimate rape' were inexcusable, insulting and embarrassing to the GOP."

Steelman lost to Akin in a three-way race for the GOP Senate nomination in Missouri at the beginning of August. She lagged far behind her competitors in terms of fund-raising, but gained national attention after receiving the coveted endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Sen. Scott Brown, in a heated re-election battle in Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter that he "found Todd Akin's comments about rape victims outrageous and way over the line.

"He needs to apologize," Brown wrote. He later called on Akin to step down from the GOP Senate nomination.

Democrats, meanwhile, wasted no time linking Akin to the GOP presidential ticket, soliciting donations from supporters by asserting the GOP – "led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan" – was pushing policies that were dangerous for women.

"What do Romney and Ryan think of Akin's latest statement? They've been trying to distance themselves from it - but Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women's ability to make their own health care decisions," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, wrote in the email.

"This kind of "leadership" is dangerously wrong for women - and I can't sit by and watch as these out of touch Republicans like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Todd Akin continue to roll back women's rights," she continued.

Polls indicate that President Barack Obama has the upper hand over Romney among female voters.

McCaskill almost immediately struck upon her opponent's comments Sunday, writing on Twitter: "As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM."

She later released a statement condemning her rival as "ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape."

McCaskill's website splashed Akin's comments across the homepage, and included a link where supporters could donate money to the Missouri senator's campaign.

On Monday, McCaskill said on MSNBC that her rival's remarks were "a window into Todd Akin's mind."

"He was elected by the Republican primary voters, by a wide margin," McCaskill said. "I know there are people that are out of the mainstream that really support Todd Akin. But for most Missourians, I hope this is a gut check moment when they say this is not somebody we want speaking for us on the floor of the United States Senate."

Republicans consider McCaskill, first elected in 2006, highly vulnerable in her re-election bid for a second term. Ahead of the GOP primary, a Mason-Dixon poll showed the senator falling behind each of the three main GOP competitors in hypothetical match-ups among registered Missouri voters.

Prior to this controversy, the top non-partisan political handicappers had rated the race a "toss up." Republicans consider McCaskill's seat a prime take-over target as they try to reclaim control of the Senate. Democrats currently have a 53 to 47 advantage in the chamber, but are defending 23 (21 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party) of the 33 seats up for grabs in November.

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Filed under: Abortion • Missouri
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. Padraig

    This was a commnet worthy of Joe Biden, one of the dumbest comments ever.

    August 20, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  2. incredulous

    What is Romney's "entirely different view?"

    August 20, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. Sniffit

    ""What do Romney and Ryan think of Akin's latest statement? "

    The strongest they've been able to muster is that they "disagree."

    August 20, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  4. Bill

    This ought to help the GOP with the vote of women. Not. This is exactly the king of outrageous remark that show the complete dettachment from reality by these tea-bag, republican, nut jobs. God help us if more people like this get elected.

    August 20, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  5. PaulCat

    It's okay, he just misspoke. He didn't mean to say it until he got into office.

    August 20, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  6. Texmaster

    Someone else just pointed out that as a member of the House of Representatives today, this Mr. Akin serves as a member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

    The Science committee?

    Really?...............Wow. Just... wow.

    Please, please, please, Missouri: vote this man out of office

    August 20, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  7. Anonymous

    Perhaps if the Republican controlled Congress hadn't spent the past two years concentrating on one anti-abortion bill after another (what is it to date, 37 bills?) instead of Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, this man wouldn't have been so willing to acknowledge his ignorance so publicly?

    Mitt Romney has been all over the board on abortion. Here, there, and everywhere. I doubt whatever he says at this point can be taken as truth.

    August 20, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  8. Mikey

    I guess if a Tea Party candidate "misspoke" it means they said what they actually believe that they try to keep a secret because the vast majority of Americans will find their views unacceptable and often offensive.

    This is also important in the presidential election because the bill in question is yet is another example of extremist Tea Party legislation, which has been watered down from it's original completely unacceptable version. The big news is that PAUL RYAN was a CO-SPONSOR of the original more offensive version of the bill.

    August 20, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. 1CentFree

    Biden is not the smartest cookie in the bunch, but even HE knows that there are no distinctions when it comes to rape. Rape is rape. This guy Akin is a basket case.

    August 20, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  10. Lip Service - nothing more

    @Padraig, the comment was by Akin, not Biden. Typical repukes, always trying to blame somebody else.

    August 20, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  11. george of the jungle

    this should not be shocking republicans all have similar views. They live in the stone age and think rape is something a woman brings on herself. So much for values. He should have went swimming with the rest of our hard working republican congressmen. So much for that fact finding mission. Who says they are not working. Sow us your taxes Mitt, Getting the picture yet the whole party is disfunctional. Forward 2012

    August 20, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. Anonymous

    In fact, thier positions are identical- rapists and zygotes should have more rights than raped women- unterly disgusting and anti-woman.

    Whenever a GOPper cried out that there "is no war on women" or it's really Obama, THIS is the stuff they need to explain. The TEA Party is filled with idiots like Akin (and by extension Ryan as his position and opinion are identical) who gleefully throw out nonsensee such as this as fact.

    These guys are not and should not be the leaders of the greatest nation on Earth.

    August 20, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  13. unretired05

    So who's ignorant? The politician or his supporters.

    August 20, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  14. Sniffit

    "Someone else just pointed out that as a member of the House of Representatives today, this Mr. Akin serves as a member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

    The Science committee? "

    Of course. The point is to BREAK GOVERNMENT. They stuck Bachman on the freekin Intelligence COmmittee for crying out loud. Barton, who apologized to BP for how mean Obama was being to BP over the oil spill...on the Energy and Commerce Committee. And they have the guy who cited Genesis from the Bible during a House hearing, as though it was proof that man-made climate change can't exist...he's the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. The whole point is to stick the most inappropriate person for the job on whichever committee they can mess up the best.

    August 20, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. Squigman

    Hey, he's a republican. Give the poor guy a break. After all, what wrong could he do if given the chance?

    August 20, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. 1CentFree

    The scary thing is that a large number of Republicans will actually believe and support Akin. Just because he's Republican.

    August 20, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  17. Mikey

    Note to GOP. Just like with Palin, there is still time to change your VP nominee before he is confirmed at the convention. If you think this Ayn Rand worshiping, social and economic Darwinist believing, anti-abortion extremist to the point of personhood bill supporting, removing the social safety net and gutting investments in education to give even more tax breaks to the very rich advocating extremist zealot is good for the country, or even for your party, you've got another thing coming.

    August 20, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. Sniffit

    "And they have the guy who cited Genesis from the Bible during a House hearing, as though it was proof that man-made climate change can't exist...he's the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy"

    John Shimkus...couldn't think of his name before...total loon.

    August 20, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. PaulCat

    Don't you people know by now, its ok if your a republican?

    August 20, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. RealityBites

    Obama is desperate. Any dumb comment will do for a distraction..., in today's lamestream media

    August 20, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  21. Core republican Values

    Core republican Value # 4: Women have no value except to give pleasure and clean up around the house.

    August 20, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. rs

    Padraig- Sorry, you are confused. Biden is a Democrat, and not from the "wedge Issue" party of divide and conquor. The GOP has spent 2 years passing wacky nonsensical anti-abortion bills and anti-birth control bills instead of try it fix the economy they wrecked. This guy is now the poster boy for the GOP War on Women. Get used to it.

    August 20, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  23. Renee

    When the republicans decide how women will not forgive them, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree .
    Obama 2012

    August 20, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  24. Indi

    If you're pro-life you can't be one foot in and one foot out.
    You're either pro-choice or pro-life.
    What's the point if you are pro-life under certain circumtances.
    I really don't get.
    Why are you pro-life again? Life is life right? Can someone explain this?

    August 20, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  25. JS

    His comments are disgusting on so many levels–ignorance, insensitivity, stupidity. I hope he is defeated soundly... And Ryan supports abortion in cases of rape. That's crazy. Just insane. The GOP leaders are so out of touch with women's issues. It's like they are living in the Dark Ages.

    August 20, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
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