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GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin's rape comment is very, very scary

COMMENTARYThe Missouri Republican congressman Todd Akin, who is running against Sen.


The Missouri Republican congressman Todd Akin, who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill for her Senate seat, aired some of his medically, not to mention ethically, questionable and shocking beliefs on women, rape, and pregnancy over the weekend. 

Asked whether or not abortion should be legal in cases of rape during a TV interview with St. Louis Fox affiliate KTVI, the congressman said well, that shouldn't really be of importance because a) it's rare; b) apparently sometimes rape is legitimate and sometimes not; and c) women have the power to block unwanted pregnancies (by the power of their minds? super duper hormones?).

Here's how the interview went, so you can draw your own interpretation of this exchange.

Interviewer: What about in the case of rape. Should it be legal or not?Rep. Todd Akin: Well people always want to try and make that one of those things well, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question.It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, uh, 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. I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.


The immediate reaction was certainly shock, as his competitor Sen. McCaskill summed up in a tweet.


Unfortunately, headlines in The Washington Post and The New York Times were more muted. Perhaps we're all tired of the crazy talk?

"Todd Akin's Bachmann-esque problem," read one in the Post. "Senate candidate provokes ire with 'legitimate rape' comment," said the Times. How about we add "outrageous" in front of the word "comment," NYT?

How about we not even examine his chances in this race, but instead talk about how disturbing this comment is and how it demonstrates that Rep. Akin has absolutely no right to weigh in matters of abortion or women's health? How about the fact that he has served in Congress since 2000, representing the people, including women, of Missouri's 2nd District. This is not faux outrage, or a "distraction." This is scary. 

The Huffington Post nailed it most accurately: "Legitimately Stupid."

Here are a few alternate headlines I'd like to suggest for news organizations:

  • Wannabe Senator unclear on logistics of the birds and the bees
  • Congressman promotes false rumor that women possess ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies  
  • Rep. Akin to verify cases of 'legitimate' and non-legit rape in Missouri 
  • What kind of doctors has Akin been talking to?
  • Rep. Todd Akin believes in women's ability to stop pregnancy before it begins but not in their right to choose 

Of course Rep. Akin has walked back his comments, saying he "misspoke" as politicians on both sides of the aisle are known to do after realizing people are mad at them.  And then he tried to pivot back to safer waters with what else but jobs and the economy. "We’ve had 42 straight months of unacceptably high unemployment, trillion dollar deficits...That is my primary focus in this campaign," read his statement. 

The Mitt Romney campaign condemned the remark as well.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Republicans have pushed such a rumor about pregnancy and rape (BuzzFeed: The 6 Craziest Things People Have Said about Pregnancy and Rape, April 2012), or tried to distiguish among "legitimate" and non-legitimate rape (Mother Jones: The House GOP's Plan to Redefine Rape, January 2011).

War on Women? Yeah, it's probably just made up. 

Retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe is right. The GOP should halt its focus on social issues and get back to basics. Because when they open their mouths on such topics, it's well, scary, and in this case, patently false.