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Skelton gets caught on 'hot mike' making off-color comment about Akin

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 9, 2009 - The Missouri congressional delegation has always had its tensions among members -- especially with its close partisan split (5 Rs, 4 Ds in the House). But other than election time, it's rare for any internal discord go public.

However, on Thursday it did. And it featured arguably the most unlikely culprit - soft-spoken conservative Democrat Ike Skelton of Lexington -- who was caught on his mike venting his frustration toward the delegation's most conservative Republican, Todd Akin.

At issue was the latest defense authorization bill, which generally would find Akin and Skelton on the same side. Both are military hawks; Skelton heads the House Armed Services Committee and Akin has several grown children in the military.

But Akin was among a number of House Republicans angry that the Senate had inserted a provision that expands the definition of "hate crimes'' to include sexual orientation. Many social conservative oppose such protections, saying it amounts to giving special protections to gays.

According to the Washington Times, Akin condemned the provision and said during his floor remarks that it was "an elephant in the room" prompting lots of opposition.

Continued the Times: "Mr. Skelton asked an aide for the vote tally in the Senate, then repeated the 87-7 Senate vote aloud to Mr. Akin."

As Skelton sat down, "He turned to an aide and muttered the phrase while his microphone was still on." The mike just barely caught the off-color remark, the Times said.

The phrase in question: "Stick it.."

Skelton's staff is declining to comment, while Akin said in a statement -- somewhat in jest -- that he was wondering whether the jab could be interpreted as a hate crime.

UPDATE: The Missouri Republican Party is now weighing in and calling for Skelton to apologize.

“Ike Skelton owes Todd Akin and the residents of the 4th district an apology for his insensitive and mean-spirited outburst on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives,'' said state GOP executive director Lloyd Smith. "Representative Akin was simply expressing a sentiment that many Missourians share, yet he was subject to a verbal assault from Skelton. ;Now Skelton is stubbornly standing by his rude remarks — refusing to apologize or even comment. His behavior once again shows how out-of-touch he is with his constituents.

"After 32 years in Washington, it’s time for a change.” The state GOP, by the way, has made Skelton its No.1 U.S. House target. Republicans long have contended that Skelton's southwest Missouri seat, situated north and east of Springfield, would be GOP territory should Skelton -- in office since 1977 -- choose to retire. So far, he has not.  Feeling that he may be vulnerable next year, several Republicans have either announced or contemplated a challenge. A spokeswoman for Skelton said this afternoon that he did, indeed, plan to apologize to Akin. Skelton's disparaging comment, she said, was made "out of frustration in the heat of debate."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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