Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin conceded that his controversial comments about “legitimate rape” were “ill conceived” and “wrong,” but insisted in a radio interview Monday that he would not give up his campaign to replace Claire McCaskill as U.S. senator from Missouri.
“Let me be clear, rape is never legitimate. It is an evil act,” Akin said in an interview with media personality and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. “What I said was ill conceived and it was wrong and for that I apologize.”
But paraphrasing American naval hero John Paul Jones -- “I’ve not yet begun to fight” -- Akin said what he called a misstep should not disqualify him from the race, despite calls from U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and some other Republicans that he step aside.
“I feel just as strongly as ever that my background and ability will be a big asset in replacing Claire McCaskill and putting some sanity back into what we are doing in government,” Akin said. “The good people of Missouri nominated me and I am not a quitter. My feeling is that we are going to move this thing forward.”
Akin was appearing on a local TV program Sunday when he was asked his position on abortion in cases of rape. The Republican said “from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
The comments instantly shifted much of the national political debate to the kind of social issues where Democrats believe they can win. Democrats defended women’s reproductive rights and expressed concern about cutbacks by Republicans of family planning and breast cancer screening. Presidential running mates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan issued a joint statement condemning Akin’s statements, Brown called for Akin to step aside and other Republicans, including former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, were unwilling to endorse the embattled candidate’s continued presence on the November ballot.
“As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong,” Brown said in a statement. “There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri.”
But McCaskill, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate, seemed hesitant to imagine missing out on a showdown with Akin, suddenly viewed as a considerably weaker opponent given his abortion remarks. She said she left it to Republicans to decide on who would run against her but that it seemed “radical” for the opposing party to shift candidates after Akin already won a three-way primary.
Akin had been leading McCaskill by 5% in a Real Clear Politics average of polls. McCaskill had been attacked on the loss of jobs in Missouri and a controversy over McCaskill not paying taxes on her private airplane, but Akin’s rape remark left her a wide opening to paint her Republican opponent as too extreme.
Akin suggested Monday that his ill-advised comments were provoked by his extreme concern for human life and the rights of the unborn. But he said that as the father of two daughters he also understood the trauma of rape and has “a compassionate heart for those who are the victims of sexual assault.”
He also corrected his suggestion that women’s bodies can somehow ward off pregnancy when they are raped and ”shut the whole thing down.” “I do know that people do become pregnant from rape,” Akin told Huckabee. “I didn’t want to imply that that does not happen. I want to apologize to those who I have hurt.”
Confronted by Huckabee with the fierce reaction to his statements, Akin said he had made a mistake but one that should not be fatal politically. Said Akin: “Just because somebody makes a mistake doesn’t make them useless.”