CBS and NBC Hype GOP 'Firestorm,' Connect Congressional Gaffes to Romney and Ryan

All three morning shows on Monday highlighted gaffes involving two Republican congressmen, touting the "firestorm" that followed a GOP senatorial candidate who discussed "legitimate rape." Both NBC and CBS attempted to link that incident (and one of a congressman swimming naked in the Sea of Galilee) to the Republican presidential ticket.

On CBS This Morning, Nancy Cordes trumpeted "comments made by Missouri Republican Todd Akin [that] have caused a firestorm" and added, "...National Democrats are already seizing on his comments as they try to push the notion that Republicans are out of touch when it comes to women's health." Talking to Chuck Todd, Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie giddily hyped, "But let me ask you the larger question, do you think this will have an effect on the Republican race for president, where the female vote is so important?"

Cordes also made the connection between somewhat obscure Todd Akin and the Romney/Ryan ticket: "Democratic party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz sought to tie the Akin comments to the GOP ticket, specifically noting a bill vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan co-sponsored that tried to distinguish between victims of rape and forcible rape."

On Sunday, Politico reported, "During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel."

Akin, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri, was asked about abortion in the case of rape. He replied, "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."

On ABC's Good Morning America, Jon Karl and Josh Elliott, respectively, recounted Yoder and Akin's comments. Unlike the other two networks, there was no attempt to connect the congressmen to the presidential ticket. Karl did read Yoder's statement about bathing without a swimsuit. He marveled to George Stephanopoulos, "George, I've covered Congress for a long time, I have never quite seen a statement like that."

A transcript of the August 20th segment can be found below:


07:01 am EDT

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1 (voice-over) (teaser): Causing some outrage this morning, Republican Representative Todd Akin – he was asked about abortion and whether it should be allowed in cases of rape.

REP. TODD AKIN, (R), MISSOURI (from interview on KTVI): If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

TERRELL BROWN: The comments brought a quick rebuke from Mitt Romney's campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Akin later said he misspoke.


07:05 am EDT

GAYLE KING: The Romney-Ryan campaign is criticizing a fellow Republican in Missouri this morning, after a bombshell comment about abortion, rape, and pregnancy shook up a very important Senate race there.

Nancy Cordes is in Washington with that story. Nancy, good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Rape Remark Uproar: Outrage Over MO GOP Candidate's Comment"]

NANCY CORDES: Good morning, Gayle. Well, the comments made by Missouri Republican Todd Akin have caused a firestorm, not just because this is one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, but because national Democrats are already seizing on his comments as they try to push the notion that Republicans are out of touch when it comes to women's health.

CORDES (voice-over): Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri just won a tough three-way race in the state's Republican Senate primary. In a local TV interview on Sunday, Akin was asked about his support for a ban on abortion, even in cases of rape.

AKIN: It seem to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

CORDES: Akin's suggestion that the bodies of women who are raped by force will generally reject a pregnancy was met with instant scorn by his opponent, first-term Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. In a fundraising letter, her campaign told supporters Akin's – quote, 'archaic, ill-informed justification is so incredibly offensive that I had to share it with you.'

Republicans have considered McCaskill one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate. She is a high-profile supporter of the President, but comes from a state that often votes Republican. Defeating her is central to the GOP's plans to try to win back control of the Senate. Opponents have already spent more than $16 million against her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANNOUNCER 1 (from Todd Akin For U.S. Senate. ad): McCaskill voted to raise our taxes, but didn't pay the taxes on her own private plane.

CORDES: Akin's comment is already getting reaction on the presidential campaign trail. The Romney campaign was quick to distance itself, saying Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: I was really terribly concerned that Todd Akin would say that.

CORDES: But in an interview with CBS News, Democratic party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz sought to tie the Akin comments to the GOP ticket, specifically noting a bill vice presidential Candidate Paul Ryan co-sponsored that tried to distinguish between victims of rape and forcible rape.

SCHULTZ: As a woman, I'm really concerned that Paul Ryan doesn't understand that rape is rape.

CORDES (on-camera): Congressman Akin has released a statement, saying that he reviewed his comments and that he misspoke, though he didn't identify specifically what about. He added that he has deep empathy for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Jeff and Gayle?

GLOR: Nancy, I also want to ask you quickly about this Politico report that the FBI probed an incident involving several congressmen on a trip to Israel last summer. What do you know about this?

[CBS News Graphic: "Congressional Skinny-Dipping: Report: FBI Investigates GOP Swim in Galilee Sea"]

CORDES: That's right. The FBI, according to Politico, did look into this trip where about 20 people - members of congress, staffers, family members - ended up going for a late night dip in the Sea of Galilee one night, including one member of Congress who was skinny-dipping. Rep. Eric Yoder of Kansas has since released an apology, which reads, in part, Jeff, 'Regrettably, I jumped into the water without a swimsuit.' So, there you go.

CORDES: Regrettably, indeed. Nancy Cordes, thank you very much.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org