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Discussion: Akin Pushes Book, Defends ‘Legitimate Rape’ Comment

Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio

This story was updated following St. Louis on the Air.

Former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin is back, and he’s not sorry.

Two years after losing a contest for U.S. Senate and igniting a “war on women” debate with a comment about rape, Akin has written a book that offers behind-the-scenes details about how he, his campaign and his family coped.

In an August 2012 interview with Charles Jaco on KTVI (Channel 2), Akin was asked about abortion and rape. Akin, who is staunchly anti-abortion, said that a pregnancy from rape “is really rare.”

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said.

After the interview aired, Akin publicly apologized for the comment. Now he wants to make sure everyone knows he’s taking that apology back.

“By asking the public at large for forgiveness, I was validating the willful misinterpretation of what I had said,” he wrote in “Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom.”

“Here’s what happened,” Akin said Tuesday on “St. Louis on the Air” with Don Marsh. “I said some words. They were intentionally misunderstood — blown out of proportion for political purposes.”

After winning the 2012 primary, Akin said a “trusted friend” warned him “‘Do not talk to any media. They will exploit what you say. They’re ruthless. They will intentionally misunderstand,’” Akin said Tuesday.

Despite the warning, Akin said he agreed to the interview with Jaco, whom he describes as a “hard-bitten liberal,” and said he felt “safe enough” going into the interview. “I just chose some really poor words,” Akin said.

Akin said the apology he issued a few hours after the interview with Jaco aired was a political decision.

“There was nothing disingenuous about it. I was sorry that people were insulted or hurt to the degree they were — some people were acting like they were hurt, I didn’t think they were probably,” Akin said. “The apology was genuine enough.”

Akin still says, though, that his statement was true.

“If a woman is raped, there is tremendous stress involved, and that can affect the probability of her becoming pregnant,” Akin said. “Can a woman become pregnant from being raped? For sure.”

Akin said the interview with Jaco failed to get to the point that he was trying to make: “Should a child who is conceived in rape have the same right to life as a child who’s conceived in love?” he said. “I was making the case, of course, yes.”

While studies have shown that chronic stress can decrease fertility, there is no evidence that the acute stress and trauma associated with rape affects a woman’s likelihood of becoming pregnant.

The Republican Party And The ‘Media Elite’

In the fallout, Akin said Republicans turned against him.

“I don’t have it in for Republicans,” he said. “I think there are great Republicans all over the country and all over the state of Missouri. But I have been critical of some party bosses.”

Several members of the party asked Akin to drop out of the 2012 race, a move Akin called “heavy-handed.” Akin declined.

“Is it turning against the party to just simply tell the truth and express an opinion about where we should be going? I don’t think so. I don’t think we ever advance good by running away from things that are not true or not good. I think we have to confront things around us that are not right and not good, and be willing to take that responsibility.”

Akin minces no words in his dislike of the “media elite.”

Akin said the media has ignored the “Democratic war on women,” citing comments about a rape case former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried 40 years ago. He said the media has also ignored the 2013 Internal Revenue Service investigations into conservative political groups applying for tax-exempt status.

“I think it’s a fact that a great block of the media is not giving the truth to the American public,” Akin said.

Patriotism And Principles

Akin frequently uses the word “patriot” in his book. He said the word is not reserved just for those who supported him.

“Patriotism is a virtue,” he said. “It stands in the same relation between a man and his country, as fidelity does between a man and his wife, and faith does between a man and his god.”

Akin said his principles continue to define who he is.

“A great deal of our lives, just day to day, we make little compromises with people,” he said. “There’s all sorts of ways that we defer to other people — compromise isn’t a bad thing inherently. But when compromise moves over to giving up a hard-held principle, because you feel political pressure or want to be cool or something, then compromise is a bad thing.

“What’s bad is giving up truth.”

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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