Todd Akin's Sexual Assault Gaffe

Todd Akin's Sexual Assault Gaffe

Updated Oct 18, 2013 at 01:02AM EDT by Brad.

Added Aug 20, 2012 at 09:32PM EDT by Don.

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On August 19th, 2012, the United States Representative for Missouri’s 2nd congressional district Republican William Todd Akin was interviewed by the St. Louis television station KTVI-TV during his campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate. During the interview, Akin was questioned about his position on abortion in cases where the woman was impregnated due to sexual assault, to which Akin replied that he believe the female body is able to prevent itself from being impregnated in cases of “legitimate rape.”

“Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. 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. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”[1]

Akin’s statements were immediately met with criticism about the insensitive and inaccurate views on sexual assault. In a statement to the Fox 2[1] news television station, Akin’s opponent Senator Claire McCaskill (D, Missouri) was quoting saying, “It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape."

Notable Developments

Media Coverage

The same day Akin was interviewed, the story was immediately picked up by news media including Forbes[2], The New York Times[4] and The Guardian.[11] On August 20th, the controversy was reported by Fox News[12], The Huffington Post[13], CBS[14], The Wall Street Journal[15], ABC News[16] and CNN.[17] The same day, the satirical news publication The Onion posted an article titled “Pregnant Woman Relieved to Learn Her Rape Was Illegitimate”, which mocked Akin’s statements with a fictional account of a woman who is happy to discover that she was not actually sexually assaulted since she became pregnant afterwards. The same day, The Onion[7] published another article parodying Akin’s apology titled “I Misspoke -- What I meant to Say is ’I Am Dumb As Dog Shit and I am a Terrible Human Being.”

Akin’s Response

On August 20th, 2012, Akin defended himself by saying he “misspoke” during the interview, and apologized for the poor choice of words.

Obama’s Response

On August 20th, United States President Barack Obama condemned Akin’s remarks during a White House press conference, saying “rape is rape” and that “the views expressed were offensive.”

GOP Pulls Funding

On August 20th, The Washington Post[6] reported that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) ruled that the national GOP will pull funding from Akin’s Senate campaign as a consequence of the controversial statements the congressman made regarding female sexual assault. The article went on to report that NRSC chairman John Cornyn warmed Akin that he was potentially harming the ability of Republicans retaking majority in the Senate.

Online Reaction

On August 19th, Redditor are_politics_funny submitted a video of the KTVI Akin interview to the /r/politics[10] subreddit titled “Todd Akin, GOP candidate for US Senate seat from Missouri, justifying his position on abortion.” Within 24 hours, the post received over 1,450 up votes and 230 comments. On August 20th, stand up comedian Phoebe Robinson wrote a post on her personal blog Blaria[8] titled “If You Are a Woman & Still Vote Republican, You’re a Moron”, which featured criticism of Akin’s statements paried with humorous animated GIFs.

The same day, the Internet humor blog Jest[9] published a post titled "Sex Education According to Todd Akin, which featured mock human anatomy text book pages parodying the congressman’s statements regarding sexual assault and pregnancy.

On Tumblr

On August 20th, 2012, the “Talking to Doctors” Tumblr blog was launched, which featured image macros with a superimposed photo of Todd Akin on various source images accompanied by captions with the snowclone “It seems to me first of all, from talking to doctors, if it’s a legitimate X, then Y has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” The first instance posted on the blog featured a screen capture of the Death Star space station from the science fiction film series Star Wars with the caption “It seems to me first of all, from talking to doctors, if it’s a legitimate death star, then Alderon has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” (shown below, left).

The same day, the women’s interest blog Jezebel[19] linked to the blog in an article titled “Other Things Todd Akin Learned ‘From Talking to Doctors’.” On August 21st, the Internet culture news blog UpRoxx published a post titled “What Else Did Todd Akin Learn ‘From Talking to Doctors’?”, highlighting several notable examples from the Tumblr blog. The same day, the Discovery[20] channel published a blog post titled “Akin’s Rape Comments Goes Meme.”

On Twitter

On August 20th, Akin canceled plans to appear on the CNN talk show “Piers Morgan Tonight”, which prompted host Piers Morgan to film an empty chair during the show and refer to Akin as a “gutless little twerp.” The same day, the @AkinEmptyChair Twitter account was created, parodying the Piers Morgan stunt and tweeting criticisms toward Akin.

Notable Examples

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