(CNN) - U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Wednesday that he is sorry if he offended anyone by saying that pregnancies from rape are "something that God intended to happen" but accused Democrats of distorting his comments for political gain.
"For those who want to kind of twist the comments and use them for partisan, political gain, I think that's what's wrong with Washington these days," the Indiana candidate said. "I spoke from my heart; I spoke with my principle; I spoke from my faith. And if others want to somehow turn those words and use them against me, again, that's what's wrong with Washington today.
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"It is win at any costs. Let's make up issues when we can't find real ones. Let's twist, let's distort, let's deceive. And I think that's a sad process."
His initial comments came during a debate Tuesday with Democratic congressman Joe Donnelly, and they prompted outrage among liberals who accuse the GOP of seeking to undermine women's rights.
"Mr. Mourdock's lack of compassion for rape survivors is callous, insulting and completely out of touch," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Mourdock became the Republican Senate nominee after toppling longtime incumbent Richard Lugar in a bitter primary fight. The Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal, which had endorsed Lugar, announced Wednesday that it was endorsing Donnelly in part because of Mourdock's pregnancy comment.
The newspaper, which has readers in southern Indiana, wrote that Mourdock's statement "exceeded extreme" and that Donnelly represented "the only rational choice for voters."
The flap erupted after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney endorsed Mourdock in a television commercial this week. In a statement issued Wednesday, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the presidential hopeful "disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr. Mourdock's comments do not reflect Gov. Romney's views" - but Romney still supports him, she said.
The head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, stood behind Mourdock as well.
"Richard and I, along with millions of Americans - including even Joe Donnelly - believe that life is a gift from God," Cornyn said in a written statement. "To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous. In fact, rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it's come to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life."
Donnelly has said he opposes abortion but would allow exceptions for rape and incest and when the life of the mother is endangered.
The controversy comes two months after Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP Senate nominee in Missouri, touched off a firestorm over the same issue when he said "legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancy. Akin faced a backlash from most of his own party as well as Democrats but defied calls to step aside from numerous GOP leaders, including Romney.
A senior GOP strategist said Mourdock may not face as much pushback from Republican leaders, given the limited time remaining before Election Day and the importance of holding the Indiana seat. But Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, canceled plans to campaign with Mourdock on Wednesday.
Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said in a statement, "She disagrees with Treasurer Mourdock's comments, which do not represent her views." And the GOP candidate for governor in Indiana, Rep. Mike Pence, said in a statement issued Wednesday, "I strongly disagree with the statement made by Richard Mourdock during last night's Senate debate. I urge him to apologize."
And Democrats swiftly pounced on the remark. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement describing the comment as "outrageous and demeaning to women" and called on Romney to take down his ad. Democratic groups and their allies put out web videos Wednesday morning to highlight Mourdock's comments.
"As Mourdock's most prominent booster and star of Mourdock's current campaign ads, Mitt Romney should denounce these comments more strongly than he has," DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said. "He should go further and demand that the ad featuring him speaking directly to the camera on Mourdock's behalf be taken off the air, and Mitt Romney should withdraw his endorsement of Mourdock immediately."
Mourdock was explaining his opposition to abortion in cases of rape or incest when he made his remark.
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," said Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer. He added that he would allow for exceptions to an abortion ban when a mother's life was in danger.
Seeking to clarify his comments, Mourdock said Wednesday that "I absolutely abhor violence. I absolutely abhor any kind of sexual violence. I abhor rape, and I am absolutely confident that, as I stand here, the God that I worship abhors violence, abhors sexual violence and abhors rape. The God that I worship would never, ever want to see evil done.
"So many people mistook, twisted, came to misunderstand the points that I was trying to make. ... If they came away with any impression other than that, I truly regret it."
CNN's Kevin Liptak, Dana Bash, Paul Steinhauser, Rachel Streitfeld and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.
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What a total embarrassment to Indiana.
The fact that Mourdock has ANY CHANCE AT ALL says that there are too many morons parading around like normal citizens in America!
I am a Hoosier. Please, on a national stage, this candidate does not express in any way the views of the majority of the residents of this state. We will take care of this problem at the ballot box. We are a Middle-of-the-Road state, and will remain so. Common sense will finally prevail.
Im embarassed to live in this state.
Wow – now here is hoping that this guy does not get elected!! The result of a crime cannot be God's will – that goes completely against what God is!! Shame on this man to bring God into his agenda and twist things this way.
He isn't calling rape a gift of God, he's calling conception a gift of God, no matter how evil the process of conception was. The child conceived of rape is still as precious of a life as any other.
On the one hand we have Republicans like this guy suggesting that if something bad happens that it's "God's will" and if someone tries to take back control of their lives by aborting an unwanted child, that they're wrong.
And then we have other Republicans who decry people who refuse to take personal responsibility for their lives.
That sounds pretty schizophrenic to me. But what do I know.
Will the good, patriotic, God fearin' folks of Mourdock's Indiana district please put down the jug long enough to send this halfwit back to the deer camp where he belongs? Too bad Mourdock's folks didn't have better access to birth control.
It is interesting that a Republican shares this belief with the Islamic world, that anything that happens – good or bad – is God's will.
I am very religious and I don't think rape is the will of god by anymeans...........the republicans are there on worst enimies.
He isn't calling r@pe a gift of God, he's calling conception a gift of God, no matter how evil the process of conception was. The child conceived of r@pe is still as precious of a life as any other.
Is rape or incest God's will too?
It's important to point out that if Romney is elected he will side with clowns like this when it comes to passing new laws that restrict womens rights. The GOP has lost its mind and anyone who cares about womens issues needs to vote accordingly.
I just threw up in my mouth. The Republicans are disgusting. What a blot on this fine country.
Everything that happens is not God's will or there would be nothing to free will. Rape victums should be given the choice to take the morning after pill.
why is all my comments awaiting moderation?
OK. Then let it be declared that all children born from rape be sent to Mr Mourdock to be paid for, raised, and nurtured. If it be Gods will, let it be Mourdocks responsibility.
I was there and he was attempting to say all babies are a gift..no matter how that got here...a subject all people of fath have to deal with. in a world of disposible life..he is a good man that the DNC have been attacking him all year long , Ads on TV and in the News paper here from outside groups who do not care about Hoosiers should stay out of this race...My vote will go to the GOP this time..As Obama said in 2008 it is time for a Change so I will go from the Dem to a Rep. voter...
I am absolutely disgusted by this. Mourdock's comments are just as disgraceful as Todd Akin's. Rape is a heinous man-made crime and has nothing to with any sort of deity!
god intended to happen??? very glad to be an atheist
These men's stupidity is breath-taking. God's will or Devil's work? When did Joe Walsh, the man who chose to not support his kids, get a medical degree? Mr. Walsh shows his ignorance since maternal deaths are falling world-wide EXECEPT in the U.S. where they are on the rise. (Around 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births, with black women 3.2 times more likely to die than white women. We rank 50th in the world.) If the U.S. has separation of church and state, the state should not be making laws based on religious values. What next? A Jehovah WItness gets into power we outlaw blood transfusions? There are religions that outlaw dancing, card playing, slacks for women, etc. Just how far to you take this?
Can you imagine the child of a rape victims school project on the family tree, who's your daddy!! can you imagine explaining your child who is father is, they do all ask, can you imagine trying to explain to this child that he was born from love!! It should be the womans choice to keep this fetus, cos it will grow into a child very quickly.
If rape is part of god's great plan, perhaps we should not punish rapists. For that matter, perhaps we should not interfere in a woman's decision to have an abortion because, for all we know, that is part of god's great plan, too. We were given free choice by god, and these fools want to take it away. Pretty anti-god, if you ask me.
I'm sorry, but you just don't find nut jobs like this in the Democratic Party!