National election cycles rarely hinge on one issue, but I think it's fair to say Republicans would have enjoyed 2012 far more if fewer GOP candidates shared their thoughts on rape. In Indiana and Missouri, for example, Todd Akin's and Richard Mourdock's public comments on the issue almost certainly cost them U.S. Senate seats.
After Election Day, the message to Republicans wasn't subtle: learn from Akin's and Mourdock's mistake and try not to be stupid when it comes to talking about rape. And yet, Amanda Terkel flags this jaw-dropper from Rep. Phil Gingrey (R) of Georgia, who apparently slept through 2012. [Update: video via TPM]
After suggesting Mourdock was judged unfairly, Gingrey reflected on Akin.
"[Akin] was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, 'Look, in a legitimate rape situation' -- and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that's pretty tough and might on some occasion say, 'Hey, I was raped.' That's what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don't find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman's body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He's partly right on that."
Gingrey pointed out that he had been an OB-GYN since 1975.
The Republican congressman went on to tell the Marietta Daily Journal, "I've delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, 'Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don't be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.' So he was partially right wasn't he? But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you're not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman's body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart."
Did I mention that Gingrey is the co-chair of the congressional Republicans' "Doctors Caucus"? Well, he is. Gingrey's also the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee's panel on health care reform.
This morning, the congressman didn't exactly walk back his published comments, but he clearly hopes to avoid a political uproar.
Asked to expand on the comments by TPM Friday, Gingrey's office pointed to a statement sent to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In it, Gingrey claims the quotes are being unfairly used by his political enemies.
"At a breakfast yesterday morning, I was asked why Democrats made abortion a central theme of the presidential campaign. I do not defend, nor do I stand by, the remarks made by Rep. Akin and Mr. Mourdock," Gingrey said, referring to the Indiana Senate candidate who lost after saying pregnancies from rape are "something that God intended."
"In my attempt to provide context as to what I presumed they meant, my position was misconstrued," Gingrey said.
Note, Gingrey didn't say he was misquoted or taken out of context, but rather, that his comments have been "misconstrued." I'll look forward, then, to the congressman elaborating on how comments should be construed.
The larger point, however, is that it seems many Republicans just haven't learned any lessons at all from the 2012 elections. They're making the same mistakes for the same reasons as if they didn't just suffer a national rebuke.