The conciliatory Facebook post by Rep. Todd Akin on Sunday afternoon wasn’t exactly an apology, nor did it clarify his position on the relationship between rape and pregnancy.
But he clearly needed to address the furor set off Sunday morning when the ardently antiabortion Republican, who is challenging Democrat Claire McCaskill for her U.S. Senate seat, told a St. Louis TV host that during “legitimate rape,” women’s bodies somehow prevent conception from taking place.
By afternoon, Akin had posted an explanation on his Facebook page:
“As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.
“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.”
After Akin apparently realized the post fell short, he later tweeted a clarification (though still not an apology): “To be clear, all of us understand that rape can result in pregnancy & I have great empathy for all victims. I regret misspeaking.”
This race is being closely watched because McCaskill is among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats this year. A Republican win in Missouri is part of the GOP strategy to recapture the Senate.
McCaskill, who trailed Akin in recent polls, immediately tweeted her dismay. A former prosecutor who handled hundreds of rape cases, she wrote that she was “stunned” by her opponent’s comments. An hour or so later, she issued an emailed statement of condemnation, with a compilation of Akin’s record of votes on rape-related legislation.
“Akin previously was the co-sponsor of a bill to redefine rape,” McCaskill said. “And it was recently reported that Akin opposed a state law against spousal rape because it might be used as a tool against husbands in a ‘messy divorce.’ ”
The “redefinition” of rape was contained in a federal bill co-sponsored by Akin in 2011 that would have redefined the conditions under which federal funds may be used to pay for abortion.
Currently, federal money may be used in cases of incest, rape or if the mother’s life is in danger. The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act” was co-sponsored by more than 200 Republicans, including Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan. It would have changed the word “rape” to “forcible rape,” which abortion rights supporters feared would rule out paying for abortions in cases of statutory rape or when a victim is drugged or verbally coerced.
The bill passed with overwhelming Republican support in the House but failed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Meanwhile, as some Facebook users clicked the “like” button on Akin’s posting, he seemed to be taking a beating by those moved to add comments to his page.
“Akin, you utter moron,” wrote Facebook user Michael Mendis. “This was supposed to be a winnable seat for us. Now you’ve blown it. You’re going to be trying to explain away this comment all the way to November, and it won’t do you any good. Step down now and let someone else have the Republican nomination.”
Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.