Comments by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin suggesting that "legitimate rape" would not cause a woman to get pregant have raced like wildfire around the Internet and put the U.S. Senate candidate on his heels.
Akin, the Wildwood Republican, is running for the Senate against incumbent Claire McCaskill. In an interview with Patch news partner FOX2 that aired on Sunday with Charles Jaco, Akin was explaining his position against abortion even in cases of rape.
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy) is really rare” in rape cases, Akin told Jaco. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Reaction was lightning fast. The Twitter hashtag "#legitimaterape" was the top trending topic on the social network, along with "Akin," at 6:30 on Sunday night. Facebook news feeds were filling up with reaction.
Akin issued a statement later in the afternoon saying it was clear he "misspoke" on the topic, but providing no support for the assertion that any sort of rape provides a medical barrier to pregnancy.
His comment about legitimate rape "does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year," Akin said in the statement on his website. "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," he continued "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."
Late Sunday night, Talking Points Memo reported that Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign did not support Akin's comments and that "A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."
Conservative commentators such as St. Louis native Dana Loesch noted today that this is a gaffe over a social issue that will distract voters from more urgent economic issues, in their belief.
Akin acknowledges the assertion of "legitimate rape" was a gaffe in his statement. Is that enough to put the issue aside? Are we too fixated on the mistakes candidates make when they're out on the campaign trail? Or, as one Twitter user said, does "misspoke" really mean, "I accidentally said what I really believe"?