Fake is fake is fake

Let the public contrition begin.

Rather than abiding by the wishes of his party and leaving the Senate race, Rep. Todd Akin is asking Missourians to forgive his inappropriate comments.

The Senate hopeful is releasing a new ad in which he speaks to the camera, corrects his past statement that victims of “legitimate rape” do not become pregnant, and asks for a second chance.

“Rape is an evil act,” Akin says in the ad. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them.”

Akin continues, correcting his remark from Sunday: “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy… The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

I do not believe him.

I might mmmmmmmmaybe have believed an apology that went something like this — “I’m sorry I said what I said, because I have since learned that I was wrong.  I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t mean it at the time, because I did.  But I have heard the reaction from people who both oppose my views on abortion and those who generally share them, and have come to understand that I was factually mistaken.  I still believe that even infants conceived through rape have a right to life, but I was wrong about the facts surrounding rape and pregnancy and I apologize for speaking in ignorance about such an important issue to everyone.”

What I don’t believe is what he’s saying, because I don’t think it’s true.  I think he spoke in a way that reflected his real beliefs, and has come to realize it was epically stupid from a political perspective to have done so.  Hence the mealy-mouthed “the words I said” defense.  No, the words he said reflected the beliefs he held, and the anger that resulted is an appropriate response to his ignorance and his temerity in wanting to use that ignorance as the basis for public policy.

I think the apology I drafted wouldn’t work, because it is too honest and people could still (rightly) criticize his ignorance and arrogance.  But it would be believable, at very least.  I have said over and over and over that I do not see the merit in forced, faux public apologies.  I realize they are meant to maintain the pretty fiction that nobody ever really thinks the “wrong” thing, they just speak inelegantly about their perfectly understandable and correct feelings.  I feel no differently about Akin.

Akin said what he said and believes what he believes.  If he wants to admit that he was wrong about what he believed and try to save his political hide that way, then I’m curious to see how that works out for him.  But this?  This is fake, and patently so, and serves no purpose for anyone save himself.

Update:  It seems I owe commenter Jeff an apology of sorts.  He indicated below that Akin’s beliefs were shared by many of his conservative fellow travelers, and I offered a tentative dissent.  But it appears that the GOP platform committee believes that pregnancies resulting from rape, “legitimate” or otherwise, should be carried to term, and has included no provision for abortion even in those circumstances in the 2012 platform.  So perhaps Akin’s ignorant and odious views are more widespread than I would have hoped, which is utterly depressing.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. He’s shot himself in the foot, and I’m rather hopeful this will cost him the Senate.

    You’re right; his words reflected his views – and no amount of backpedaling and saying, “mea culpa” will change the fact that he’s a misinformed jackhole who has all the sensitivity of a rotting turnip.

  2. “I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them.”

    Is that before or after you ask if they are “legitimate” victims?

    • “Dear Lord, if Jane Doe is a legitimate victim of sexual assault, I pray that you will heal her heart so she does not choose to abort the child you created for her through this evil act. If she is not a legitimate victim, please cause her to bear the child, then smite her and consign her to hell forever and ever, amen.”

  3. For all the “condemnation” from his collegues, you know that they believe the same thing. But they’re smart enough to know that the War on Women must be fought slowly, so that the True Believers can deny it exists.

    • Perhaps I’m misguided, but I really hope that even most pro-lifers understand that rapes result in pregnancy, and that women’s bodies cannot “shut down” any impregnation thus conceived.

      • As someone who’s spent a good deal of time in pro-lifer circles, I can testify that they do understand this.

        • It is, however, conceivable that a good deal of second generation homeschoolers do not know about the birds and the bees (or, specifically, that they can occur outside of marriage).

      • Akin’s pastor believes it, as do quite a few out-spoken members of the GOP.

        Whether it’s wide-spread I couldn’t say, but anyone who claims that the “pro-lifers” don’t believe it is uninformed or lying (my bet is on the latter).

        • Some pro-lifers do evidently believe it. If that’s the threshold, then you’re right. That’s a low threshold. People who spend more time in pro-life communities are saying that this view is actually not very common. I have spent time in pro-life communities and it has never struck me as a common belief. I think the implication that this is a super-secret belief widely held by the people that are now condemning Akin is unsupported.

  4. One thing about the apology you might/maybe accept is that regardless of whether the speaker truly believes it, it serves as an actual retraction of the statement that had been apologized for. In other words, it reinforces publicly the notion that we don’t say a person wasn’t “legitimately” raped if it resulted in pregnancy.

  5. Tough crowd. Though I obviously have no idea if he meant it or not, on e-paper it seems a perfectly nice, abject apology to me (“I ask for your forgiveness” is practically begging, I rarely hear than from anyone, ever). If a man can’t communicate well in the first place or is ignorant, we can’t expect perfect apologies tailored to exactly what we want to hear.

    Of course it could be politically-motivated. Or, his daughters could have given him what-for like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t know what’s in his heart, nor does anybody. I’d suggest if we aren’t willing to accept apologies graciously, we’ll probably get less of them in future.

    • There you go again 🙂

      Seriously, as Russell points out, Akin didn’t misspeak or get muddled in his words. He said exactly what he meant to say. An apology intended to mislead is no real apology, and accepting it does the truly contrite no favors.

      • If you say so. I am perfectly happy with the sequence wherein someone says something dumb/gets called on it/apologizes. I don’t need to keep kicking them or questioning their inner thoughts. It’s pointless as far as I can see. How on earth do the truly contrite benefit?

        The whole point of apologies is not currency or trade; a counterfeit apology, if in fact it is counterfeit, does not cause apology inflation and make real apologies worth less.

        I guess we have to agree to disagree.

        • Glyph,

          I am typically inclined to say “let’s move on” after an apology, but I have to side with Mike on this one. His apology seemed to pretty clearly demonstrate that he doesn’t understand what the problem is here. I don’t know whether this makes him better or worse than Trent Lott (who was insincere but at least ascertained the problem, compared to Akin who strikes me as sincerely missing the point), but I can’t say I am particularly satisfied.

        • My problem with the apology, Glyph, is that it makes no sense in context. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way”? What on earth were the right words? He seemed to be expressing a discrete notion in a clear manner, albeit an ignorant and appalling one. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue, he didn’t move to clarify what he meant immediately after saying it because he knew he’d misspoken. No, he expressed a belief he held in a perfectly concise manner.

          The mistake wasn’t in “the words [he] said,” it was in the thoughts those words quite accurately conveyed. And the man’s apology utterly fails to acknowledge that.

        • I guess we have to agree to disagree.

          No, I want you to admit that you were wrong, say that you’re sorry, and promise not to do it again. Then I’ll forgive you.

          I’m being silly, of course, but those are the three parts of a genuine apology. Like this one. Not like this one.

  6. Guys, I see where you are coming from, but I think expecting an ignorant pol to express an apology in the way you wish he would is like expecting a puppy who poo’d on the carpet to cover the dry cleaning bill. The best you can hope for is a hangdog expression and non-recurrence.

    • Sure. As I said in the OP, I hardly expected him to offer the kind of apology that would satisfy me. (And it’s a moot point, really, since I neither live in Missouri any longer nor would have voted for him under the best of circumstances anyhow.) What he offered no doubt is the best we can realistically expect, and I agree with you there. But that doesn’t make it satisfactory.

  7. The apology seemed to remind me of when after a particularly nasty fight, I make my kids apologize to one another (a lazy tactic on my part to diffuse the situation). The apology is more about avoiding the wrath of mom by sharing the blame than actually fully accepting that they were wrong. Although it serves to diffuse the situation, it is merely a tactic by my girls to avoid worse consequences than it is an actual admission of guilt or real apology.

  8. John Boehner owes the country an apology for putting this ignorant clown on the Science and Technology Sub-committee.

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