(CNN) – Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee both had harsh words for conservative strategist Karl Rove on Sunday after Rove joked about murdering GOP U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, whose controversial comments about rape and pregnancy drew the ire and condemnation of most Republicans. Both Gingrich and Huckabee referred to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as they condemned Rove's joke.
"We should sink Todd Akin. If he's found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts," Rove said Thursday at a private fund-raiser, according to a Businessweek reporter who was not supposed to be there.
- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.
Gingrich, the former House speaker and presidential candidate, called Rove's remarks "terrible" on NBC.
"In the age of Gabby Giffords it is not a joke to say that a member of Congress ought to get murdered," he added.
Giffords is currently recovering from gunshot injuries sustained in a 2011 shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona. She resigned from the House in January 2012.
Mike Huckabee, also a former presidential candidate who served as governor of Arkansas, wrote on his website that Rove's remarks were worse than Akin's original comment, in which the Missouri lawmaker suggested that pregnancy is almost impossible in cases of what he called "legitimate rape."
"If making a foolish remark about rape is bad, then making a joke about a United States Congressman being murdered is as bad or worse since Akin didn't wish anyone to be raped, just spoke awkwardly and incorrectly about the likelihood of pregnancy in the event of a rape," Huckabee wrote.
"In light of the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the remark was disturbing," he continued.
Rick Tyler, an adviser to Akin, said the congressman received and accepted an apology from Rove by telephone on Friday after the comments were reported by multiple news outlets.
"Karl's personal apology to Todd was appreciated and Todd did forgive him," Tyler said. "But because Karl has maliciously and disgracefully attempted to ruin Todd's solid reputation as a public servant, at a minimum, he should follow Todd's example and make his own contrition public."
Akin has brushed off criticism from many Republicans and Democrats alike over his remarks earlier this month that a woman's body has biological means of preventing pregnancy in "legitimate rape." He has refused to withdraw his candidacy and vows to continue campaigning against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, a vulnerable Democrat.
CNN's Kevin Liptak and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.