Updated @ 9 a.m.
NEW YORK (KMOX) – Embattled U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri is tentatively reentering the political limelight in the wake of his controversial remarks concerning “legitimate rape” and pregnancy.
Wednesday morning he spoke with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show.
“First of all let me say that ‘legitimate’ should not be in the context of rape at all,” Akin said when Lauer gave him a chance to explain what he was really trying to say. “That’s completely wrong, and when I understood that I had been offensive to people and that I had misspoken, then I apologized.”
He went on to add that “there is no rape” that is legitimate, and that it’s a “heinous crime”.
Lauer pressed Akin on several issues including the fact that GOP vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan called him, urging Akin to drop out of the senate race against Democratic incumbant Claire McCaskill.
“Paul Ryan did give me a call and he felt that I had to make a decision,” Akin admitted. “He advised me that it would be good for me to step down.”
Akin told Ryan that he’d take that into consideration as he weighs his options going forward.
“Because it’s not about me, it’s about trying to do the right thing and standing on principle,” Akin told Lauer.
OUR EARLIER STORY:
Rep. Todd Akin had until 5 p.m. tonight to remove himself from Missouri’s U.S. Senate race and did not do so.
On Sunday, Akin told KTVI-TV’s Charles Jaco Sunday, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [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.”
This morning on two different conservative radio shows, Akin said he will not bow to pressure from his party and will be staying in the race.
He says he made “a one-word mistake”, and “no one is perfect”.
If Akin were to exit the race, it would require a court order to do so.
At least a half-dozen looming figures in his own state party urged Akin to bow out in the wake of the firestorm caused by his comments on rape and abortion, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
It’s not just party operatives pushing some agenda on Twitter, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt issued a joint statement to Akin Tuesday, co-signed by former Missouri U.S. Senators John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth, and Jim Talent.
It says: “We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”
“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize,” Akin told viewers in an ad Monday, first reported by Politico Tuesday morning. “As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them,” Akin says.
“The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims,” he continues.
“The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”
While Missouri voters strongly disagree with the comments Akin made over the weekend, support for him in the Senate race hasn’t changed.
According to a public policy poll taken Monday evening (6 p.m.-9p.m.) Akin leads Claire McCaskill by a single point, 44-43. That’s basically identical to the last poll taken in late May, which found Akin ahead by a 45-44 spread. (Click here to see full poll results)
It’s not that Missouri voters are OK with or supportive of Akin’s comments. 75% of voters, including even 64% of Republicans, say they were inappropriate to only 9% who consider them to have been appropriate. 79% of voters say they disagree with what Akin said, including 65% who express ‘strong’ disagreement with him. 51% of GOP voters say they strongly disagree with him.
All of that is taking a toll on Akin’s image. Only 24% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 58% with a negative one. He’s pretty universally disliked by Democrats (3/85) and independents (21/61) and even with Republicans (43/34) he’s on only narrowly positive ground.
- Five Missouri Politicians Tell Akin to Step Aside
- Akin Apologizes in New TV Ad, Poll Shows Him Still Leading
- Akin Tries To Explain “Legitimate Rape” Comment, Backs Out Of KMOX Appearance
- Akin Admits He Was Wrong on Mike Huckabee Radio Show
- Akin Can Still Withdraw from Race
- Governor Nixon Criticizes Akin’s Comments
- AP Source: Funding Drying Up for Todd Akin