By Eli Yokley and Susan Redden
An owner of a Joplin manufacturing company who is a heavy-hitter GOP contributor has joined a growing list of Republicans withdrawing support for senatorial nominee Todd Akin in the wake of the U.S. representative making reference to “legitimate rape” during a television interview Sunday.
David Humphreys, CEO of Joplin-based TAMKO Building Products, on Monday denounced Akin’s candidacy in a one-line statement sent to the Globe by an adviser.
“Akin is a moron,” Humphreys said.
Despite the political firestorm created by the weekend comments, Akin said Monday that he will not withdraw from the U.S. Senate race.
Akin apologized for a remark in a St. Louis television interview in which he said, in response to a question about abortions for rape victims, that it is rare for women to become pregnant as a result of a “legitimate rape.”
Akin said: “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.”
Republicans for months have described the race in Missouri as a prime opportunity to oust Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and return the Senate to a GOP majority. On Monday, funding from outside the state seemed to be evaporating, based on statements attributed to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Akin made no public appearances Monday, but on former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s radio show, Akin said rape is “never legitimate.”
“It’s an evil act,” he said. “It’s committed by violent predators. I used the wrong words the wrong way.”
John Putnam, chairman of the Jasper County Republican Central Committee and a staunch Akin supporter, defended the comments and said he had been assured by the campaign in a conference call Monday that the GOP candidate would not drop out of the race.
Akin’s response “was poorly worded,” Putnam said. “He has apologized for not speaking more clearly and compassionately.
“What he was talking about is forcible rape. There are established studies that show in cases of forcible rape, pregnancy is rare.” Putnam cited an article titled “Rape Pregnancies are Rare,” by John C. Wilke, M.D., from an April 1999 publication called Christian Life Resources.
A former prosecutor who worked with rape victims, McCaskill called the statements outrageous
“It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape,” she said.
The McCaskill campaign cited a study published in 2003 in Humane Nature magazine. It suggested that “rape is more likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex.” The campaign also cited a study published in 1996 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology that said 32,000 pregnancies result from rape each year.
Putnam, an Akin supporter since the start of his Senate campaign, earlier said he and the congressman had been friends since Akin was in the Missouri House of Representatives, and both were involved in legislation on home schooling. Putnam and his wife, Merre, contributed $3,650 to the campaign during the primary election.
Akin won the GOP primary on Aug. 7 with 36 percent of the vote, while 30 percent voted for St. Louis businessman John Brunner and 29.2 percent favored Sarah Steelman, former state treasurer. Akin won every county in the Joplin region in the primary, with Steelman coming in second and Brunner third.
State Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, endorsed Brunner. He said Monday that he was “dumbfounded” by Akin’s statements, but that it was too early to gauge the potential impact on the Senate race or on other races statewide.
“It was just so over the top, I don’t know what to say,” Richard said.
Akin’s candidacy has been endorsed by Missouri Right to Life, and the group spoke out in his defense on Monday.
The group said it “supports Congressman Akin’s defense of the life of an innocent unborn child conceived by rape.”
“We also supported his statement of compassion and support for victims of sexual assault,” said Pam Fichter, president of the Missouri Right to Life Political Action Committee.
She said Akin’s “consistent defense of innocent unborn human life clearly contrasts” with positions held by McCaskill.
Calls for Akin’s exit from the race grew, with at least two Republican senators — Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — saying he should resign the party’s nomination.
But Akin, who has served six terms in the House, pledged to continue the race against McCaskill.
“The good people of Missouri nominated me, and I’m not a quitter,” he said on Huckabee’s radio program. “And my belief is we’re going to take this thing forward and by the grace of God, we’re going to win this race.”
An official with the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee said the group’s head, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, called Akin on Monday to tell him that the committee had withdrawn $5 million in advertising planned for the Missouri race. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private.
Cornyn publicly called Akin’s comments “indefensible,” and suggested that he take 24 hours to consider “what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party and the values that he cares about and has fought for.”
At least one outside group that has pounded McCaskill with ads, the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads organization, also pulled its ads from Missouri.
Moments after Akin’s apology, President Barack Obama said Akin’s remarks underscore why politicians — most of whom are men — should not make health decisions on behalf of women.
“Rape is rape,” Obama said. And he said the idea of distinguishing among types of rape “doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me.”
Akin also drew a swift rebuke from the campaign of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin.
Romney and Ryan “disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
“Like millions of other Americans, we found them (Akin’s comments) to be offensive,” Romney said.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.
MISSOURI ELECTION LAW allows candidates to withdraw 11 weeks before Election Day. That means the deadline for exiting the Nov. 6 election would be 5 p.m. today. Otherwise, a court order would be needed to remove a candidate’s name from the ballot.
IF AKIN WERE TO LEAVE, state law holds that the Republican State Committee would have two weeks to name a replacement. The candidate would be required to file within 28 days of Akin’s exit.
Source: The Associated Press