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'Legitimate rape' Akin pushed to quit

21 August 2012, 09:42

Washington - Senior Republicans urged congressman Todd Akin on Monday to quit the US Senate race in Missouri over his inflammatory remarks about rape that distracted from the party's nomination next week of Mitt Romney for US president.

Akin was widely criticised for saying in a television interview on Sunday that women have biological defences to prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape", making legal abortion unnecessary.

As pressure built on Akin, Republicans cut off cash for his campaign, which had looked like a relatively easy victory against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.

President Barack Obama called Akin's remarks offensive in a rare appearance in the White House briefing room, compounding the Republicans' discomfort.

The furore pushed the campaign debate squarely onto social issues and away from jobs, which Romney has tried to keep at the centre of his bid to win the 6 November presidential election.

Akin's remarks complicated Republican efforts to capture the four Democratic seats they need ensure a majority in the 100-member Senate.

'What's best'

US Senator John Cornyn, chairperson of the influential committee that raises money for Republican Senate candidates, called Akin's comments "indefensible".

The committee will withhold $5m in planned spending on TV advertising in Missouri if Akin does not step aside, a committee official said.

"I recognise that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next 24 hours, congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service," Cornyn said.

Reince Priebus, the Republican Party's national chairperson, was asked on CNN whether Akin should drop out of the Senate race. "If it was me, I would step aside and let someone else run for that office," he said.

Priebus condemned Akin for a "bizarre statement" that is "biologically stupid", and said he would prefer that Akin not attend the Republican National Convention.

Democrats used the Akin remarks as evidence that Republicans are waging a "war on women", largely over birth control.

'Tough question'

"Rape is rape," Obama said. Akin's comments underscore "why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women", he said.

Akin, a Tea Party-backed conservative who opposes abortion, said in the interview that the need for abortions in the case of rape was "a particularly tough ethical question".

"It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that is really rare," Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said.

Romney, who polls show trails Obama with women voters, called Akin's comments "insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly wrong" in an interview with the National Review online.

The controversy took the spotlight away from Republican Party preparations for the coronation of Romney as its nominee at the national convention next week in Tampa.

The firestorm over Akin's remarks erupted as another Republican lawmaker, freshman congressman Kevin Yoder, came under fire for swimming naked in Israel's Sea of Galilee during an August 2011 trip with other members of Congress. Both events featured prominently on the national television news broadcasts.


Akin said on Monday he misspoke. He apologised but said he had no plans to drop out of the Senate race.

"The good people of Missouri nominated me and I'm not a quitter. My belief is we're going to take this one forward, and by the grace of God, we're going to win this race," he told The Mike Huckabee Show, a radio programme hosted by the former Arkansas governor, a favourite of religious conservatives.

Akin was a no-show on CNN's "Piers Morgan" prime-time programme on Monday night. The host said media consultant Rex Elsass accepted an invitation for Akin to appear, then cancelled at the last minute.

"We had his opponent, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, booked earlier, and she cancelled," said Morgan. "And then we booked congressman Akin to tell his story himself ... now we have an empty chair."

"Why he would say yes and then no, we can only speculate," he added.

Tuesday deadline

American Crossroads
, a pro-Republican outside funding group linked to strategist Karl Rove, said it was pulling its advertising from the Missouri race. The group said it has already spent $5.4m in Missouri.

Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the US Senate, also said Akin should consider leaving the race.

Akin has until Tuesday evening to withdraw without a court order, or until 25 September if he produces a court order to take his name off the ballot.

If he did step aside, the Missouri Republican committee would nominate a new candidate to run for the Senate. That candidate would not have to be one of his two primary opponents.

Besides distancing itself from Akin, Romney's campaign said a Romney administration would not oppose abortion in case of rape.

That would be a departure from the position of his vice presidential pick, US Representative Paul Ryan, who has proposed legislation that would outlaw abortion with no exception for rape.

Hard-fought primary

Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Akin in the House of Representatives that would have changed the legal definition of rape to "forcible rape" to narrow access to federal funding for abortions. Critics said the measure could exempt victims of statutory rape.

McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in a state that has shifted to the right since she was elected in 2006. Recent polls had shown Akin with a 10-point lead over her.

Akin, a six-term congressman from the St Louis suburbs, won the Republican nomination to oppose McCaskill just two weeks ago after a hard-fought three-way primary race.



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