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11:42 am
Mon August 20, 2012

Obama: Congressman's Rape Remarks 'Don't Make Sense,' Were 'Way Out There'

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 7:20 pm

Saying that the comments "don't make sense to the American people" and were "way out there," President Obama just weighed in on the controversial remarks made over the weekend by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who said in a television interview that "if it's a legitimate rape," it's rare for a woman to get pregnant and therefore want an abortion.

Akin, a candidate for one of Missouri's Senate seats, set off a furor with his comments, which critics took as implying that some women make false claims about rape to justify abortions. Akin later said they were "off-the-cuff" comments and do not "reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year."

Obama said Akin's remarks show why it's wrong to have "a bunch of politicians, most of whom are men," trying to tell women what to do when it comes to health care decisions.

Obama made his comments this hour in the White House briefing room, where he's made a surprise appearance and is taking questions from reporters.

Akin, meanwhile, has said he is not dropping out of the Senate race even though some in the GOP have said he should.

Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. Before He Leaves, A Warning To Syria:

The president just took his last question, about Syria. In addressing the issue of a military response to the Assad regime's crackdown there, he said that "the red line for us" would be the use of chemical or biological weapons. The regime, said Obama, would suffer "enormous consequences. ... That would change my calculations significantly."

Update at 9:11 p.m. ET. More Reaction To Akin's Remarks:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Akin's Democratic rival in the race, appeared to defend the Republican's right to run for Senate.

As Adam Allington on St. Louis Public Radio reports, McCaskill said the idea Akin will be forced to step down by GOP insiders is a slap in the face of Missouri voters.

"I think what's startling to me is that these party bigwigs are coming down on him and saying that he needs to kick sand in the face of the Republican primary voters," she said.

Here's more from Adam:

Political observers claim McCaskill wants Todd Akin as an opponent, because he would be easier to brand as "too extreme for Missouri."

McCaskill says she disagrees with his comments, but believes them to be an accurate reflection of candidate Akin and the qualities that Republican voters chose when they selected him in a crowded primary.

"This is a man who is sincere," said McCaskill, "I honestly do have sympathy for him, because I think there are some big people in the party that are trying to pull the rug out from underneath Missouri voters—he won his race fair and square."

McCaskill's seat is considered by many to be the GOP's only chance at recapturing a majority in the Senate.

Akin has until Tuesday to withdraw from the race; election laws in the state allow a candidate to withdraw 11 weeks prior to the Nov. 6 election.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.