CNN Hypes GOP Congressman's Remark on Rape and Pregnancy; Brings Up Todd Akin

CNN tarred the Romney campaign with Todd Akin's infamous "legitimate rape" comment, and now it is trying to do the same to Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) for making a much less controversial remark on rape and pregnancy.

Franks, referring to a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, and arguing that no exception should be made for pregnancies from rape, claimed that "the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." He clarified that the number of those cases was low and should not be the focus of the debate, but Democrats (and the media) pounced and lampooned him for saying that.

And CNN played up the controversy. "Backtracking from another politician over comments about rape and pregnancy. Now, Republican Representative Trent Franks of Arizona is telling his staff to fasten their seat belts," hyped anchor Carol Costello. She added the remarks were "way out of touch."

"Another U.S. congressman in damage control this morning after a controversial comment made about rape," Starting Point co-host John Berman reported.

Correspondent Athena Jones recalled the Akin saga in her report that aired multiple times on Thursday morning. "Remember Missouri Republican Todd Akin? Here's what he said last fall," she noted. Jones added that "It was a self-inflicted wound many believed caused him [Akin] and the GOP a Senate seat," perhaps a warning to the GOP for the 2014 election.

As The Weekly Standard explained, Franks' remark is much less controversial than Akin's.

Below is a transcript of the segments, which aired on CNN on June 13:

STARTING POINT
[7:35 a.m. EDT]

JOHN BERMAN: You know, there was just another controversial rape comment from a U.S congressman. Arizona Republican Trent Franks insisting this morning he was taken out of context while discussing his proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks. Here's the comment that landed him in hot water after he was asked about possible exceptions in cases of incest or rape.

(Video Clip)

Rep. TRENT FRANKS (R-Ariz.): Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject because the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.

(End Video Clip)

BERMAN: Congressman Franks insists he meant to say the number of abortions resulting from rape after the start of the sixth month of gestation would be low. He's now blaming Democrats for distorting his words.

(...)

STARTING POINT
[8:31 a.m. EDT]

BERMAN: Another U.S. congressman in damage control this morning after a controversial comment made about rape. Arizona Republican Trent Franks insisting he was taken out of context while discussing his proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks. Here's Athena Jones.

(Video Clip)

ATHENA JONES, CNN correspondent (voice-over): New controversy this morning after Republican Congressman Trent Franks said this about rape.

Rep. TRENT FRANKS (R-Ariz.): The incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.

JONES: His remarks came during a discussion in Congress about a proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks, and brought an immediate challenge from a fellow House member.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no scientific basis for that and the idea that the Republican man on this committee think they can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous.

JONES: Franks later tried to clarify his remarks, saying that he meant to say the number of abortions due to rape after the sixth month of gestation would be low. He blamed Democrats for taking his words out of context. Remember Missouri Republican Todd Akin? Here's what he said last fall.

Former Rep. TODD AKIN (R-Miss.): If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

JONES: It was a self-inflicted wound many believed caused him and the GOP a Senate seat. And politicians aren't alone when it comes to remarks that many women find offensive. Listen to this from billionaire hedge fund guru Paul Tudor Jones in April.

PAUL TUDOR JONES, Tudor Investments: You will never see as many great women investors or traders as men. Period. End of story.

JONES: Tudor Jones were explaining his view that children were the ultimate career-killer for female traders.

TUDOR JONES: As soon as that baby's lips touch that girl's bosom forget it. Every single investment idea, every desire to understand – every desire to understand what's going to make this go up or going to go down is going to be overwhelmed by the most beautiful experience, which a man will never – which a man will never share with that emotive connection between that mother and that baby.

JONES: Tudor Jones later said his comments were about global traders who were on call all the time. But that did little to end the outrage or the feeling that some men are just out of touch. Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.

(End Video Clip)

(...)

CNN NEWSROOM
[9:27 a.m. EDT]

COSTELLO: Backtracking from another politician over comments about rape and pregnancy. Now, Republican Representative Trent Franks of Arizona is telling his staff to fasten their seat belts.

(...)

COSTELLO: Yeah, way out of touch. So, going back to Congressman Franks and his comments about pregnancy and rape. What is he saying today, Athena?

JONES: Good morning, Carol. Congressman Frank said after this situation played out yesterday that he thought that Democrats were trying to stoke this controversy to shift the debate away from the issue of whether abortion should be banned after 20 weeks to something else for this issue of rape. He said they were trying to distort his words, but he admitted that his own word choice didn't really help him in the matter, Carol.

COSTELLO: Yeah. But this bill in the House, you know, abortion banned after 20 weeks, that includes women who have been raped. That includes all pregnancies. There are no exceptions at all, not for the mother's life, not in cases of rape or insist. So, what's happening with this bill?

JONES: Well, I can tell you that it did pass the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20-12. It was passed by an all-male group of Republicans. But, the point is that even if this goes through the House, it has bad chances in the Senate, and not to mention what would happen if it were ever to reach the President's desk. It's not something he would be likely to support. And so, that's where things stand now. This looks like more a matter of debate, not something that's going to end up making it all the way through, Carol.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014