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Akin apologizes for 'legitimate rape' remarks, but says he won't drop out of Senate race

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 20, 2012 - U.S. Rep. Todd Akin apologized Monday for his remark that that women rarely get pregnant from "legitimate rape." In the face of some Republicans' demands that he drop out of the race for U.S. Senate, Akin said he wasn't a "quitter."

Akin, R-Wildwood, appeared on the syndicated radio show of Mike Huckabee – a former Arkansas governor who appeared in ads for Akin during a three-way Republican primary. Speaking for the first time since he ignited a national firestorm during an interview with Charles Jaco Sunday, Akin told Huckabee that he had made “a couple of serious mistakes here that were just wrong and I need to apologize for them.”

“I just want to apologize to those that I’ve hurt,” Akin said. “I spoke in error. I wanted to get that straight right off the bat.”

After KTVI reporter Charles Jaco asked him whether he supported banning abortion in the case of rape, Akin replied “First of all, 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.” He then continued, “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.”

Huckabee asked what Akin meant by “legitimate rape.” Akin responded that he was talking about “forcible rape and it was absolutely the wrong word.”

Akin also disavowed his use of the phrase "legitimate rape": “There is no such thing as legitimate rape. It’s an evil act and it’s committed by violent predators."

Huckabee also inquired: “But you do realize that there are rapes that result in pregnancy?”

“That’s right. And I know that,” Akin said. “In fact, I’ve known people who’ve been raped. I don’t know any who have been raped and turned out to be in pregnancy. But I know that happens, too.”

Akin did not back away from his view that abortion is wrong in the case of rape. Nor did he discuss what "ways" the "female body has" to "try to shut that whole (pregnancy) thing down."

Akin said he would remain in the contest against McCaskill – even though some national and state Republicans suggested he withdraw. After stating he's not "the first person in public office that’s suffered from foot-in-mouth disease," Akin declared that he was not "a quitter."

"My belief is that we're going to take this thing forward," Akin said. "And by the grace of God, [we're] going to win this race. To quote my friend John Paul Jones, 'I have not yet begun to fight.'"

He added he felt "just as strongly as ever that my background and ability will be a big asset in replacing Claire McCaskill and putting some stability and sanity in what’s going on in our government."

Akin said no Republicans had called him to withdraw from the race. But moments after he was finished on Huckabee’s show, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn – a Texas Republican who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee – released a blistering statement calling Akin’s statements “wrong, offensive, and indefensible.”

“I recognize 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.

Politico reported that Crossroads GPS – a Super PAC that’s spent millions to try and dislodge McCaskill – was pulling out of the Missouri Senate contest. And the Washington Post reported that Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said Akin should consider withdrawing.

In addition to a raft of prominent Republicans – including likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney – President Barack Obama stated that Akin’s remarks were “offensive.”

"Rape is rape," said Obama. "And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me."

The president added that "these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health-care decisions on behalf of women."

State law says Akin has until tomorrow to withdraw although NBC News’ Chuck Todd said it’s possible that Akin could leave the race as late as September but the process is then more convoluted.

(Start of update) State law indicates that "a person nominated as a party's candidate" shall withdraw "at or before 5 p.m. on whatever day may be fixed by law as the final date for withdrawing as a candidate for the office, the party nominating committee for any established political party may select a party candidate." 

If Akin withdraws tomorrow, a new candidate would have to be filed with the secretary of state by Sept. 18. (End of update)

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.