Embattled Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock finally has a vocal public ally: Newt Gingrich. The former speaker and presidential candidate appeared on ABC’s This Week this Sunday and attempted to defuse the controversy surrounding Mourdock’s views on abortion and rape.
“If you listen to what Mourdock actually said, he said what virtually every Catholic and every fundamentalist in the country believes: Life begins at conception,” Gingrich said. He also noted Mourdock’s later clarification, adding, “And he also immediately issued a clarification saying he was referring to the act of conception, and he condemned rape. Romney has condemned … I mean, one part of this is nonsense. Every candidate I know, every decent American I know condemns rape.”
“We all condemn rape,” he concluded. “Now let’s talk about whether we also condemn killing babies in the eighth and ninth month.”
Mourdock, the Republican candidate for Senate in Indiana, landed himself in hot water last week when he said that all pregnancies, including those that were the product of rape, were “intended” by God. He later clarified, saying, “What I said was, in answering a question from my position of faith, I said that I believe God creates life.”
Not every Republican has been as eager to rush to Mourdock’s side as Gingrich. The national party has done its best to avoid commenting on the flap, while Mitt Romney put out a statement saying he “disagrees” with the Senate candidate—notably, however, the Romney campaign has not yet withdrawn its Mourdock endorsement.
The Mourdock controversy is something of a Catch-22 for Romney and other Republican candidates. Many members of the Grand Old Party—including Todd Akin and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan—hold views remarkably similar to Mourdock’s. If Romney denounces Mourdock’s views as extremist he could alienate his base, but failing to denounce them could similarly alienate moderates.
Gingrich, evidently, feels little need to be cautious. Nor does fellow former presidential candidate John McCain, who withdrew his endorsement of Mourdock last Wednesday. Meanwhile, on the same day that Gingrich explicitly defended Murdoch, another prominent Republican—Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson—towed the party line, trying to shift attention away from reproductive rights issues. Abortion, he said, is “not even an issue here in Wisconsin. It doesn’t even move the radar at all.”