KBIA’s Kellie Kotraba looks at the people and groups still supporting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, despite his comments made two weeks ago concerning rape and abortion. Kotraba is the editor and community manager of ColumbiaFAVS.com, which covers faith and religion in mid-Missouri.
Written by Kellie Kotraba
Despite criticism and pleas from fellow Republican Party members to drop out of the Senate race, Missouri’s Todd Akin has found support.
The congressman has been under fire for saying in a television interview that in cases of “legitimate rape,” pregnancy is unlikely. His comment has since stirred up conversation on rape and abortion.
Yet, some conservative organizations and voters are standing behind Akin, highlighting his faith, his own party’s response and his humanity.
A group of 120 Missouri pastors signed a letter of support for Akin, and the congressman’s website lists about 100 pastors and other Christian leaders in Missouri who also rallied around him. A recent New York Times article emphasized the role Akin’s faith has had in his life.
Rev. David Krueger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Linn, Mo., is among them. He said he’s heard Akin talk about his faith several times and sees the congressman as someone who lives out a Biblical worldview as “someone who makes an attempt to adjust their life to what the word of God says.”
He said Akin made a “stupid comment,” but that comment shouldn’t end his career. “Politicians make stupid comments all the time.”
Krueger is also the chairman of the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention, but his support of Akin is personal – the commission hasn’t taken an official stance for or against Akin.
Other support of Akin comes as a backlash against fellow Republicans who have urged Akin to leave the race. That list includes presidential nominee Mitt Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
“He’s been done wrong,” said Bev Ehlen, the Missouri director of Concerned Women for America. The organization has not made a formal endorsement of Akin, but Ehlen is among its leaders who have personally endorsed him.
Ehlen said it “would have been easy” for the Republican Party to stand behind him and say that while he had a poor choice of words, his platform aligns with that of the party. She called the situation a “test of fire” for Akin. “Test of Fire” is also the name of a campaign video she referenced – a general voting video targeted at Christian audiences. (There’s a Catholic version and a non-Catholic version.)
For Missouri Rep. Mike McGee, R-Odessa, Akin’s blunder is part of being human. McGee sponsored Missouri’s controversial “Right to Pray” amendment, which Missourian voters approved by a large margin in August.
“I like a guy that makes mistakes,” McGee said. “It kind of reminds me of myself.” McGee thinks Akin is just as good of a man now as he was before he made the “legitimate rape” remark. “The only perfect one was Jesus.”
He gave this analogy: If everything a reporter published was the first thing that came out of the pen, there would be mistakes in that, too.
One supporter, Don Hinkle, is standing his ground behind Akin despite allegations that he violated federal tax law by intervening in two campaigns for public office – both Akin’s campaign and that of Ed Martin for Missouri attorney general.
Some conservative organizations, such as the Family Research Council, have given the congressman their support. According to a survey by the FRC, Akin is ahead of his opponent, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. But he’s only ahead by less than 5 percent: 45 percent of those surveyed support him; 42 percent support McCaskill.
This support comes shortly after a different poll – one not sponsored by the FRC – that showed Akin 9 points behind McCaskill.
Missouri Right to Life threw its support behind Akin and is trying to draw a distinction between him and McCaskill, specifically with their positions on abortion. A statement from the organization focused on Akin’s “statement of compassion and support for victims of sexual assault,” making no mention of the rape comment.
Other groups have abstained from formal endorsements, including the school where Akin earned his masters in divinity, Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.
The seminary hasn’t issued an official statement on whether it supports Akin, but it did send out a statement about rape. The statement does not mention Akin by name, but makes clear that the seminary isn’t where he got his ideas about rape: “Covenant Theological Seminary has never taught, and in no way affirms, that the female body is capable of preventing pregnancy caused by rape.”
Akin’s views seem to have been shaped, in part, by a 1972 study – a study that’s been referred to time and again, despite having numerous flaws.
The Presbyterian Church of America, the church body Akin is affiliated with, doesn’t have a position on Akin. Angela Nantz, operations manager of the PCA, said the general assembly only meets once per year, so it’s not in the habit to make statement on issues such as this.