Local Republicans Not on Board with Rep. Todd Akin’s ‘Legitimate Rape’ Comments [UPDATED]
When U.S. Rep. Todd Akin made derogatory comments about rape and abortion last weekend, the media, liberals and many conservatives erupted in a firestorm. Conservatives, worried they’d now lose what could have been an easy Senate seat in Missouri, called on him to drop out.
“From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy resulting from rape is] really rare,” noted Akin in the comments which started the rage-twister. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, you know, I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.”
The statement was a real boggle. For one thing, what constitutes ‘legitimate rape’? And for another: The female body can “shut the whole thing down”? With what? Sperm-killing venom? (Short, fake answer: Yes.) And what doctor would tell you this?
(PW and others explored this phenomenon and found that many conservative politicians of yesteryear had been saying the same shit.)
Akin has not dropped out of the race. And over the last week, some in and out of the state have begun donating money to Akin’s campaign and re-announcing their support of the candidate. Local politicians, though: Not so much.
Running in Pennsylvania’s 1st district (Center City, Northeast Philly), candidate John Featherman tells PW the comments were shit and that they threaten the party as a whole. (Other local Republicans we contacted did not respond by bloggish time.)
“Akin’s asinine, misogynistic comments threaten the campaigns of every single Republican candidate running in this county—from committeeperson to president of the United States,” he says. “Mark my words: Akin will eventually drop out, but by doing the wrong thing and letting the substitution date expire on August 21st, he has selfishly killed the Republican’s chances for winning this very important seat. Those of us in the party must strongly, unequivocally and publicly condemn him and urge for his lifetime exit from public office.”
Featherman, too, noted local politics has heard similar, weird arguments before: “You don’t need to go to Missouri if you remember back long enough to 1988 when former Pennsylvania State Rep. Stephen Freind made a similar scientifically baseless statement,” he says.
U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith, who we found out this morning is unknown by 40 percent of the state, put out a statement noting he “disagrees strongly with Congressman Akin’s comment” and “in no way do Congressman Akin’s comments reflect the pro-life community’s thoughts and views on women who are victims of rape.” Except maybe they do?
Smith’s website notes that he is “pro-life, period.” During a GOP primary debate, Smith noted he’d support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states life begins at conception. Candidates at the cited debate all noted there can be no exceptions for which abortion should be legal.
*See update below.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey called the remarks “completely indefensible, insensitive, inappropriate and just plain wrong…In order to serve the principles and values that Congressman Akin has advocated for during his many years in Congress, it would be best for him to withdraw from the race.”
A host of other state Republicans have noted their disagreement with the phrasing, though didn’t think Akin’s statement would have a direct affect on them—as Featherman suggested above. The latest poll in Akin’s race shows a double-digit shift, with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill now winning by 10 points, according to a Rasmussen poll, which tends to lean conservative.
Jersey Governor Chris Christie slammed Akin’s comments, too, calling them “reprehensible.”
“He should be ashamed of himself to be talking about it in that way,” Christie said. “It’s stunning to me that somebody who’s offering themselves for high office like that would have those kind of thoughts and use that kind of language.”
As we’ve previously mentioned, a horde of Pennsylvania Republicans and “moderate” Democrats in the U.S. House co-sponsored a bill last year that’d only allow Medicaid payments for abortion for rape if the victim could prove said rape was violent and was not inflicted by a family member, i.e. the “legitimate rape” of which Akin spoke. Pennsylvania Republicans and those all over the country should be happy there was so much wrong with Akin’s statement. If he’d mentioned just the “legitimate rape” and not the sperm poison, lots of politicians would have a much harder time dismissing him.
UPDATE: Case in point: During an interview with media at the press club Monday, candidate Tom Smith made quite a gaffe when asked about this very issue. It’d be hard to explain the gaffe in full, so I am copy-and-pasting from PoliticsPA, who wrote up the exchange in full:
Robert Vickers, Patriot News: In light of Congressman Akin’s comments, is there any situation that you think a woman should have access to an abortion?
Tom Smith: My stance is on record and it’s very simplistic: I’m pro-life, period. And what that Congressman said, I do not agree with at all. He should have never said anything like that.
Vickers: So in cases of incest or rape…
Laura Olson, Post-Gazette: No exceptions?
Smith: No exceptions.
Mark Scolforo, Associated Press: How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will? Do you have a way to explain that?
Smith: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But, fortunately for me, I didn’t have to.. she chose they way I thought. No don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t rape.
Scolforo: Similar how?
Smith: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.
Scolforo: That’s similar to rape?
Smith: No, no, no, but… put yourself in a father’s situation, yes. It is similar. But, back to the original, I’m pro-life, period.
[Another question on an unrelated topic]
John Micek, Morning Call: Mr. Smith, can I ask you to clarify one more time the question that Mark asked you. Did I just hear you say that having a child out of wedlock is analogous to rape?
Smith: No, I did not say that.
Scolforo: You did say that.
Micek: But you did say it, sir.
(Noise as a Smith campaign aide sought to answer, but Scolforo insisted Smith answer).
Scolforo: But you did say that.
Smith: I said I went through a situation.
Scolforo: With your daughter, with a daughter.
Smith: And it’s very, very difficult. But do I condone rape? Absolutely not. Do I propose life? Yes I do. I’m pro-life, period.
Scolforo: So what’s the similarity between those two, in other words? Just that there’s a decision involved?
Smith: (Pause.) A life is a life, and it needs protected. Who’s going to protect it? We have to. I mean that’s, I believe life begins at conception. I’m not going to argue about the method of conception. It’s a life, and I’m pro-life. It’s that simple.