Should We Analyze Akin’s Comments? No.
The comments that sparked it all:
“It seems to me, 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.”
After saying this on Sunday’s airing of The Jaco Report, Missouri congressman Todd Akin came under massive criticism. He was referring to pregnancy and his stance on abortion in the case of rape. Earlier this month Akin won the Republican nomination for a Senate seat, and this controversy could cost him that seat.
There’s been a great rush to elaborately analyze his outrageous comments, but that would be a mistake. More on that in a moment.
Senator Clarie McCaskill, Akin’s Democratic opponent, remarked, “I’m stunned by Rep. Akin’s comments about victims.” President Obama called the comments “offensive.” Nancy Pelosi tweeted, “Rep. Todd Akin’s statement is another manifestation of the total disregard and disrespect of women by Republican leaders.”
But Democrats weren’t the only ones to denounce Akin’s statements.
Republican Senator Scott Brown called for Akin to withdraw from the race, saying the comments were “outrageous, inappropriate and wrong.” A Mitt Romney spokesperson wrote that the Republican duo “…disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” (Ryan, however, has long opposed abortion in precisely that instance.) National Review urged Akin to step aside, and the Republican Party pulled funding for his campaign.
The immediate and widespread disapproval caused Akin to apologize on Monday.
“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview,” said Akin, “and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.”
Amidst the attacks, there was one who stuck up for Akin. As The Huffington Post’s Alana Horowitz publicized, Politico reporter Dave Catanese defended Akin on Twitter after covering the incident. Here is his first tweet:
“Ok, I’m gonna (ask for it) & defend @ToddAkin for argument’s sake. We all know what he was trying to say . . .” (Politico promptly removed him from covering the story, saying he had gone too far.)
Let me first say that Catanese wasn’t trying to prove that Akin’s statistics were true. Let me also say that I always endorse constructive debate. Being able to talk through a situation to understand it completely is often overlooked in today’s current political media. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t see campaigns banking on out of context distortions of their opponents.
But this was absolutely not the time for Catanese to try to make that point.
What happened was simple, Akin didn’t misspeak, he shared his belief that not all cases of rape are legitimate and that women can will themselves not to get pregnant. To say he “misspoke” would mean he blurted out the wrong phrase. But his phrase seems very clear. There’s no further analysis needed.
Akin made a huge mistake, and calling for multiple interpretations only creates more controversy for the sake of controversy. Not to mention Catanese called out Democrats on suppressing the larger debate, when clearly Democrats and many Republicans were quick to separate themselves from the representative.
Catanese commented on the issue Monday, but he should have known that you can’t build a nuanced conversation on the foundations of a very clear, very wrong statement.
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