Earlier today, Talking Points Memo kicked off a national news frenzy when it picked up a Monday report from Sioux City TV station KMEG-14 that asked Iowa Congressman Steve King to weigh in on Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s rape-comment gaffe. KMEG reported that a federal bill King supports would ban abortion in cases of statutory rape and incest but “now, Medicaid also covers abortions for victims of statutory rape or incest – for example, a 12 year old who gets pregnant. Congressman King says he’s not aware of any young victims like that.”
“Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way, and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter,” King said.
Even for a candidate who’s constantly making national headlines for outrageous statements, that sounds pretty vile. Dozens of national outlets, from Vanity Fair to the Atlantic, thought so too. Vanity Fair’s headline was typical: “Congressman Steve King: There’s Lots of Types of Rape You Don’t Get Pregnant From, The Way I See It.”
But that’s not what King said at all. In fairness to the national media, the blame mostly lies with KMEG, which took King’s statement out of context. Today, the station posted a video of reporter Heather Leigh’s full exchange with King (also posted below) to clear up the confusion. Here’s the relevant part:
LEIGH: You support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that would provide federal funding for abortion to a person who has been forcibly raped, but what if someone isn’t forcibly raped, for example a 12-year-old who gets pregnant? Should she have to bring this baby to full term?
KING: Well, I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way, and I’d be open to hearing discussion about that subject matter. Generally speaking, it’s this: That there are millions of abortions in this country every year, and millions of them are paid for, at least in part, by taxpayers. I think it’s immoral of us to compel conscientious objecting taxpayers to fund abortion through the federal government, or any other government for that matter. So that’s my stand, and if there are exceptions there, then bring me those exceptions and let’s talk about it. But in the meantime, it’s wrong for us to compel pro-life people to pay taxes to fund abortion.
That makes it pretty clear that King was not suggesting he believed girls can’t get pregnant from statutory rape, but that he hasn’t spoken to anyone who has and would be willing to hear their case for keeping federal funds for this type of abortion. Would that change his mind? Probably not. King is a strict abortion foe and exaggerates facts to back up his hard line — KMEG pointed out that only about 180,000 abortions, not millions as King claimed, took place in 2010, and that Planned Parenthood doesn’t spend federal funds on abortions (which King also claimed).
But it’s understandable why King issued a statement in response to the national reports (some of which have since been updated) that read in part, “The liberal press and their allies have again twisted my words. I never said, nor do I believe, a woman, including minors, cannot get pregnant from rape, statutory rape or incest. Suggesting otherwise is ridiculous, shameful, disgusting and nothing but an attempt to falsely define who I am.”
Democrats, of course, are going to milk Akin’s gaffe for all it’s worth. Now that Iowa’s lost one of its five congressional districts King is facing a serious challenger for the first time in Christie Vilsack. The Vilsack campaign issued a statement repeating the reports that “King says that he has never heard of a 12-year-old victim of rape or incest who was pregnant.” The campaign later released a second statement acknowledging King’s “backpedaling” but adding “he has been an outspoken [opponent] of the Violence Against Women Act, and has opposed a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of rape or incest.” That’s entirely fair. The first statement, which is still up on Vilsack’s website, is not.This whole ordeal began on Sunday, when Akin said on a St. Louis TV station, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin later said he misspoke and that he realized his comment was based on bogus science (which King, in his statement, said “I have never heard of and categorically reject”). Still, Akin continues to face massive pressure from Republicans to drop out of the race so that the party stands a better chance of taking back the Senate.