Todd Akin’s new book is entitled “Firing Back.’’ But based on the former St. Louis area congressman’s interviews over the past week, an equally descriptive title could be “No Apology.”
Two years after losing a nationally watched contest for the U.S. Senate, Akin is arguably more passionate than ever as he defends the message that landed him in hot water in 2012.
The immortal phrase in question: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
While he says he’d use different words, Akin emphasizes that he stands by what he was trying to say. His chief regret is that he was talked into making an apology ad, which he now repudiates.
Akin also remains critical of fellow Republicans who shunned and condemned him then, and now.
“I think they’re scared to death quite simply,’’ said Akin in a telephone interview Thursday, when he assessed fellow Republicans who have declined to comment on his book and publicly declared they won’t read it.
What are they scared of? “Particularly the liberal Democrat media (that) has so much power to destroy somebody,” he replied. “They are so effective at using character assassination.”
Akin, who spent 12 years in the U.S. House, also faults Republican leaders who he says continue to ignore the GOP base – at their peril.
“A party that fights against itself is not going to last for long,’’ Akin said.
Since his book came out Tuesday, Akin has been treated like a media celebrity as national, state and local outlets have sought him out during his East Coast tour.
But he’s still somewhat of a political pariah among Republicans, while Democrats are eagerly promoting Akin’s past in hopes that it can help Democrats' political future.
Akin found it interesting that his Democratic rival in 2012, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, has sent out a fund-raising letter this week that focuses on his book and portrays Akin as a political extremist.
He said that McCaskill was so close to President Barack Obama that “from where she’s coming from, I might seem like an extremist.”
He added that voters, at least those in his old suburban St. Louis legislative and congressional districts, “felt like I was a pretty common-sense guy.”
Sticks with 'legitimate'
Akin’s book offers up behind-the-scenes details about how he, his campaign and his family coped after the national political uproar over his “legitimate rape’’ comments.
“I’d gone from a respected congressman to the worst person in the world,’’ Akin recalled. “I was treated like an international criminal.”
In retrospect, Akin said he wished he hadn’t done the August 2012 TV interview with Charles Jaco on KTVI (Channel 2) in which he uttered his infamous phrase.
But he added that he’s not backing away from the essence of his message, that he opposes abortion in the case of rape. (Akin has said for years that he supports abortion only for ectopic pregnancies, a life-threatening condition in which the embryo is growing in a woman’s fallopian tube. The fetus cannot survive, and the woman's life is in danger.)
Akin acknowledged that he could have used a better choice of words in explaining his stance to Jaco. He said that he actually meant to say “a legitimate case of rape.”
Akin also maintains that evidence shows that “stress plays a part in whether someone becomes pregnant” -- a rephrased version of his contention that in the case of rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy.
He cited new studies that he says show that pregnancies from rape are rare because of the stress factor. (Other studies say the rate of pregnancies from rape are not much different from the overall rate.)
But the debate over the frequency of pregnancy as a result of rape is “ancillary to the main question,” Akin said. “Does a little baby conceived in rape have the same right to life as a little baby conceived in love?”
He added, “Yes, they do.”
Akin also observed that he had first-hand knowledge of such cases. “We had a lot of people, a number of people who worked on our campaign who were children of rape,’’ he said.
No plans to challenge Blunt
In any case, Akin says the fallout was unfair and unwarranted. He remains angry with top Republicans in Missouri and elsewhere who sought to persuade Akin to drop out of the contest so party leaders could draft a substitute deemed more electable.
Akin contends that any fill-in would have had too little time to assemble a credible campaign against McCaskill, who ended up defeating Akin by 15 percentage points.
Akin said he had been unfairly targeted for his words, when former President Bill Clinton has, in his view, gotten by with much worse when it comes to women. Akin noted that Clinton had been the marquee speaker at the 2012 Democratic presidential convention.
Meanwhile, Akin asserted in the book that Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., wielded “a bloody war club’’ in a failed effort to force Akin off the ticket soon after the controversy broke over his "legitimate rape'' comment. He blames Blunt for a letter signed by several of Missouri’s former Republican governors and senators that sought Akin’s withdrawal. The letter swiftly became public.
Blunt has declined to comment on Akin's book and says he won't read it.
Still, Akin denies recent reports from some of his latest interviews indicating that he might challenge Blunt in 2016. Akin says he has no such plans.
In fact, Akin isn’t sure if he’ll run for office again. At 67, he says he has other interests. He cites his impending 11th grandchild and the possibility that he might write another book if this one sells well.
He added, “I have an invention in my mind, to manufacture something.”
So when asked what he plans to do after his book tour ends, Akin observed with a chuckle, “I really don’t have the foggiest idea.”