Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest ranking woman in the House GOP leadership, said Friday that former Rep. Todd Akin's declaration that he now regrets apologizing for his "legitimate rape" comments during the 2012 campaign do not reflect the views of the Republican Party.
"I would say that Todd Akin's comments were not reflective of the Republican Party and the Republican message," McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, told CNN. The GOP message "is about a better future for every person in this country no matter who you are, no matter your background, and we are about protecting that opportunity for everyone."
McMorris Rodgers spoke to CNN during a Republican National Committee "Women's Summit" in Washington.
Akin, a Missouri Republican, was strongly criticized during his losing 2012 Senate campaign for arguing that if a woman experiences "legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Akin eventually apologized for the comment. But in his soon-to-be-released book, "Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom." the former congressman states that he now regrets the apology.
Politico, which obtained an early copy of the book, reports that Akin wrote that by "asking the public at large for forgiveness, I was validating the willful misinterpretation of what I had said."
National Republican leaders, anxious to gain ground among women after losing the female vote in the 2012 presidential race by 11 points, have repeatedly tried to distance themselves from Akin's remarks and push for the nomination of less polarizing candidates in 2014.
They've also launched several new initiatives designed to reach out to female voters this year. One of the programs highlighted at Friday's summit was the "14 in '14" program. The initiative, according to a RNC statement, is about mobilizing volunteers to devote at least a half hour per week in the 14 weeks prior to the November election.
"Volunteers will engage women in 25 key counties with high numbers of independent and 'swing' women voters," the statement noted. "'14 in '14' will train these volunteers to recruit other women, identify voters, support other get-out-the-vote efforts, and be Republican messengers in their communities."
Speaking at the summit luncheon on Friday, McMorris Rodgers argued that the modern Republican Party is a much better fit for American women than its Democratic counterpart.
"The Republican vision is one that is about empowering you," she told the female attendees. The Democratic agenda, in contrast, is one that is "paternal" in nature and "promotes dependency."
"There is one party that respects women" and "honors them," she declared. And that is the Republican Party.