Updated Aug.20, 4:42 p.m. ET
Rep. Todd Akin’s fellow Republican Senate candidates are quickly backing away from his explosive comment Sunday that “legitimate rape” does not lead to pregnancy.
Akin has issued a statement saying he “misspoke,” and has acknowledged that rape can lead to pregnancy. But other candidates are taking precautions to prevent the outrage associated with Akin’s charge from also tarring their campaigns.
Sen. Scott Brown, who is in a tough race in Massachusetts, has gone the furthest of all, so far — by calling on Akin to drop out of the race.
“As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong. There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for US Senate in Missouri.”
Brown had earlier called for Akin to apologize.
Later Monday, former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson joined in the call for Akin to resign:
“As a woman and a mother, I found Representative Akin’s comments this weekend to be sickening and deeply offensive. There is no such thing as ‘legitimate rape.’ His remarks undermine his ability to command the respect necessary for leadership and he should step aside.”
Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada also came out against Akin’s continued candidacy, in a statement Monday afternoon: “Todd Akin’s comments were unquestionably inappropriate and absurd. He should not be the standard bearer for the Republican party in Missouri.”
Late Sunday night, Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, tweeted a statement against Akin.
I oppose abortion, but exceptions must be made for rape, incest and to protect life of the mother. Cong. Akin’s comment was wrong.— Jeff Flake (@FlakeforSenate) August 20, 2012
“While Congressman Akin may have addressed his statement, like many men and women I strongly disapprove of his original comments — and the sentiments behind them,” said former Sen. George Allen, who is locked in a close race in Virginia. “Having served on a Rape Crisis Board many years ago, I saw how both physically and emotionally harmful rape is for its victims, and this is why I believe there should be an exception for rape.”
Rep. Denny Rehberg, in a close race with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, called Akin’s statement “reprehensible.”
“As a pro-life conservative, a husband, and a father of two young women, I find Representative Akin’s remarks to be offensive and reprehensible,” said Rehberg in a statement Sunday night. “There is no such thing as a ‘legitimate rape.’ I condemn Representative Akin’s statements in the strongest possible terms.”
Rep. Rick Berg, the Republican nominee for Senate in North Dakota, described Akin’s statement in nearly the same terms. “I find Congressman Akin’s comments insulting and reprehensible,” said Berg, in a statement sent to TPM on Monday. “His statements are beyond inexcusable and I condemn them in the strongest terms possible.”
Richard Mourdock in Indiana also blasted Akin, in a statement to TPM: “Mr. Akin’s comments about the heinous crime of rape were callous and offensive. I condemn Mr. Akin’s remarks, and he needs to make a complete apology for them.”
Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson also said in a statement: “I strongly disapprove of Rep. Akin’s original comments — and the sentiments behind them. Regardless of gender or party, we all have a moral responsibility to come together in opposition to crimes against women and support an exceptions for abortion in the abhorrent situations where rape is involved.”
And Monday afternoon, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn — who is tasked with winning back the Senate for Republicans — issued a statement that came close to asking Akin to quit the race, without saying so explicitly:
“Congressman Akin’s statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible. I recognize that this is a difficult time for him, but over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service.”
Pema Levy contributed to this story.