On the Sunday talk show circuit, Newt Gingrich defended Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana for his remarks about abortion and rape, referring to the controversy as “nonsense” and calling on President Obama’s campaign to “get over it.”
“If you listen to what Mourdock actually said, he said what virtually every Catholic and every fundamentalist in the country believes, life begins at conception,” Gingrich said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Now, this seems to be fixated by the Democrats, but the radical on abortion is Obama, who as a state senator voted three times in favor of allowing doctors to kill babies in the eighth and ninth month who were born, having survived late-term abortion.”
He was among several Romney surrogates to downplay the importance of Mourdock’s remarks to the presidential race on Sunday.
At a debate last Tuesday, Mourdock said, “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” The day after, he stood by his opposition to abortion in the case of rape and incest, but clarified that he was merely trying to convey his belief that life is a gift from God.
“If there was any interpretation other than what I intended, I really regret that,” he said.
Mitt Romney said he disagrees with Mourdock’s comments. The Obama campaign has worked to tar Romney with the remarks, demanding that he drop his support for the Senate candidate. Gingrich called on the president’s re-election team to let it go.
“[Mourdock] also immediately issued a clarification saying he was referring to the act of conception, and he condemned rape,” the former House speaker said. “Romney has condemned — I mean, one part of this is nonsense. Every candidate I know, every decent American I know condemns rape. OK, so why can’t people like [Obama deputy campaign manager] Stephanie Cutter get over it? We all condemn rape. Now let’s talk about whether we also condemn killing babies in the eighth and ninth month.”
Along with Gingrich, Mitt Romney surrogate and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) also downplayed Mourdock’s remarks and the relevance of the issue of abortion in his state.
“It’s not even an issue here in Wisconsin. It doesn’t even move the radar at all,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “Abortion doesn’t even show up.”
Unlike Gingrich, Romney supporter and former GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina argued that Mourdock is extreme on abortion, but predicted that Romney will do well with women because abortion is not the central issue in the election.
“Richard Mourdock said a really stupid thing, and he apologized. … In that state there are two pro-life candidates running. Richard Mourdock is clearly more extreme. And I agree, I think most people disagree with him,” she said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “But here’s the reason Governor Romney is gaining among women right now. And that’s because women care about the economy. Women care about the role of the government. Women care about their children’s education. Women care about their healthcare. And more women are living in poverty under this president than in any time in decades.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.