Ind. GOP Senate candidate stands by rape comment

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Wednesday that he is standing by his statement that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape "that

Republican Richard Mourdock, candidate for Indiana's U.S. Senate seat, participates in a debate with Democrat Joe Donnelly and Libertarian Andrew Horning in a debate in New Albany, Ind., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Wednesday that he is standing by his statement that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape "that's something God intended." He says some people have twisted the meaning of his comment.

Mourdock said in a news conference that he abhors any sexual violence and regrets it if his comment during a debate Tuesday night left another impression. He said he firmly believes all life is precious and that he abhors violence of any kind.

"If they came away with any impression other than that I truly regret it. I apologize if they came away. I've certainly been humbled by the fact that so many people think that somehow was an interpretation," Mourdock said.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other Republicans have distanced themselves from Mourdock's stance.

Mourdock, who has been locked in one of the country's most expensive and closely watched Senate races, was asked during the final minutes of a debate Tuesday night whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," Mourdock said.

Mourdock maintained at the news conference that he was misunderstood.

"I think that God can see beauty in every life," Mourdock said. "Certainly, I did not intend to suggest that God wants rape, that God pushes people to rape, that God wants to support or condone evil in any way."

Mourdock became the second GOP Senate candidate to find himself on the defensive over comments about rape and pregnancy. Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said in August that women's bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape." Since his comment, Akin has repeatedly apologized but has refused to leave his race despite calls to do so by leaders of his own party, including GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte cancelled her plan to campaign Wednesday with Mourock. Ayotte's spokesman, Jeff Grappone, said that the senator disagrees with Mourdock's comments, which do not represent her views.

Other Republicans were split on their reaction to Mourdock Wednesday morning.

Indiana gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence, who has been a leading social conservative in Congress, said Mourdock should apologize for the comment. A spokeswoman for Republican congressional candidate Susan Brooks, who is running in a heavily GOP district in suburban Indianapolis, said she disagreed with Mourdock.

But the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has invested heavily in Mourdock and Indiana, said their candidates' words were being twisted.

"Richard and I, along with millions of Americans - including even Joe Donnelly - believe that life is a gift from God. To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous," NRSC Chairman and Texas Sen. John Cornyn said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear what effect Mourdock's comments might have during the final two weeks in the increasingly tight race against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly. But they could prove problematic. Romney distanced himself from Mourdock on Tuesday — a day after a television ad featuring the former Massachusetts governor supporting the GOP Senate candidate began airing in Indiana.

"Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email to The Associated Press. Romney aides would not say whether the ad would be pulled and if the Republican presidential nominee would continue to support Mourdock's Senate bid.

National Democrats quickly picked up on Mourdock's statement and used it as an opportunity to paint him as an extreme candidate, calling him a tea party "zealot." DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz described Mourdock's comments as "outrageous and demeaning to women" and called on Romney to take his pro-Mourdock ad off the air.

Mourdock has consistently opposed abortion, with the exception of cases where the mother's life is in danger. His stark anti-abortion stance earned him the endorsement of Indiana Right to Life in the Republican primary and the general election.

In response, Donnelly said after the debate in southern Indiana that he doesn't believe "my God, or any God, would intend that to happen."

Mourdock, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress three times before becoming state treasurer, became one of the tea party's biggest winners of the 2012 primary season when he knocked off veteran Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar in a brutal campaign. Initially, national Republicans stayed out of the Indiana race because the race had appeared to be a likely win for the GOP.

But as the race grew tighter in recent months, Mourdock changed his tune and started trying to woo moderate voters. At the same time, top Republicans began stumping for Mourdock around the state in a push to break open the high-stakes Senate race. Republicans need to gain three seats, or four if President Barack Obama wins re-election, and seats that were predicted to remain or turn Republican have grown uncertain.

Donnelly, a moderate Democrat who opposes abortions, has spent much of his campaign highlighting Mourdock's tea party ties and trying to accuse him of being too extreme even for conservative Indiana.

Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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