Unless you live in Missouri, you probably never heard of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin before today. And what you’ve heard today likely infuriated you.
Akin is a conservative Republican House member seeking with Tea Party backing to win the U.S. Senate seat held by stalwart Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill. The race drew notices nationally even prior to Akin’s Sunday comments because this is a key race amid Republican efforts to take over the Senate.
Akin went on St. Louis’ TV fixture “The Jaco Report” on KTVI Sunday and by now you’ve heard or read about his comments on rape and abortion. I listened to the 18-minute interview that included the incendiary comments that became the national talk of the town today. And legitimately so.
He’s today’s No. 1 trend on Twitter, and the video of the interview is the #1 video. Even Mitt Romney, as he certainly should, called Akin’s comments “insulting and inexcusable.”
Akin answered an in-context question in an interview for what could prove to be a pivotal election that could have much to say about how the nation is governed for the next few years. The question dealt with abortion, a divisive national issue, in the case of a woman becoming pregnant after rape.
No one tricked Akin, or induced him through anger or subterfuge to offer what he did. In fact, his answer didn’t even give Charles Jaco, the TV interviewer, pause. Next he turned to the economy. Ho hum. But Akin’s comment was anything but:
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has the ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, I think there ought to be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child.”
No one has moved to defend Akin, because what he said is indefensible. He’s wrong on the biology and wrong on the subject of rape. The Twitter universe exploded with outrage, as it should. That a father of five could say such a thing is extraordinary.
Then, where crisis management should have come in, he compounded the mess he’d caused himself. He issued a typical politician’s statement that no one takes seriously. He said:
“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life, and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”
Watch the interview. His remarks were not off-the-cuff, unless by that he means stupid, uninformed, ignorant and insulting. And that’s the point here, one that too many people in crisis never grasp. You said it, own up to it.
His statement should read more like this:
“In the course of a television interview Sunday on a variety of relevant topics, I was asked about my view of abortion in the case of pregnancy after rape. My answer was ignorant, ill-informed and insulting to people — but especially women — everywhere. I deeply apologize to all whom I have offended. I take responsibility for my unthinking answer and I will do all I can between now and November to win back the confidence of the voters of Missouri, and the respect of Americans everywhere.”
Something along those lines might help him, might give him a sliver of an opening to prove he’s human. Pretending or outright lying about what he said will do him no good.
If his handlers were smart, they’d get him to [non-publicly] spent a day in a women’s crisis shelter. He’s apparently got a great deal to learn.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.