On Sunday, Republican Rep. Todd Akin said:
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."Just about everyone on the planet condemned his remarks. Heck, even Mitt Romney's campaign issued a statement—admittedly, the mildest statement possible—disagreeing with the statement. Mitt slept on it and then decided he's also "offended."
But there was one person who thought Akin raised a really good point: Politico reporter Dave Catanese, who is officially covering Akin's Senate race in Missouri. What followed was nothing short of amazing.
Catanese should have stopped there, of course. What kind of asshole announces that he's going to defend someone whom the rest of the world agrees has said something indefensible? But he didn't stop there.
How does Catanese know what Akin really meant to say? No idea. Not that it matters since what Catanese says Akin really meant to say is still completely 100 percent wrong.
Aaaaaand here Catanese pulls out the old "bitches be lying" canard. It's a classic among rape apologists who think that women are asking to be raped if they wear a dress or go out at night, or maybe they just secretly hope to be raped when they say "no" but really mean "yes," or that women are just flat-out lying about being raped so they can cash in on fabulous gifts and prizes. That's the official position of the Republican Party, after all.
What's the science? Um, well, Dave, the science is pretty easily available if you want to take half a second to actually Google it. But hey, why bother when you can just keep spouting nonsense, right? So much easier to continue defending the indefensible.
Riiiiight. If only Akin had said "real" rape instead of "legitimate" rape, that would have made everything he said okay. Which is, of course, exactly what Akin tried to do today when he explained that he meant to say "forcible rape" instead of "legitimate rape." Of course, putting any kind of qualifier in front of the word "rape" just perpetuates the false distinction between real/legitimate/forcible rape and not-really-rape. So you can see why this slimy dodge would be appealing to Akin.
Catanese should have stepped away from the computer. That's what everyone on Twitter was telling him to do—in between pointing out how pathetically wrong he was. But that only made him pull out the other classic canard.
That's right. There's nothing wrong with what Akin said, or with Catanese defending and explaining what Akin said. It's those damned lefties who are always correcting people with their lefty "facts." After all, someone somewhere said something, which automatically makes it worthy of "larger debate."
Well, actually, no one disputed that we should take Akin at his word. He thinks women have magic ladyparts that can distinguish between consensual sperm and rape sperm, allowing their bodies to "shut it down" so they don't get pregnant. No reason to think Akin doesn't believe it. But of course, no one except Catanese was saying that. But Catanese decided to stop while he was behind, until, like Mitt Romney, he had a chance to sleep on it.
So cute. Poor little victim Dave Catanese was just trying to "open up a larger debate" and "have nuanced conversation" about whether women do, in fact, have magic rape-sperm-detecting ladyparts. It's not like he was trying to take a side—even though he started the conversation by announcing that he was going to defend Akin.
But Catanese is right about one thing: This does seem like a moment to open up a larger debate:
POLITICO reporter Joe Williams has been suspended pending review of recent controversial comments he made on television and Twitter, POLITICO editors informed staff late Thursday night.So is Politico going to suspend Catanese as well? Do his tweets meet their "standards for fairness and judgment"? Why should Politico keep on its payroll a reporter who defends the indefensible, doesn't understand what rape is, isn't clear on the science of where babies come from (and is too lazy to look it up), and blames "the left" for pointing out how wrong he is about everything?
On MSNBC today, Williams made a remark suggesting Mitt Romney was only comfortable around white people. The video was first flagged by conservative website Washington Free Beacon. Breitbart.com ran the video and also flagged a series of tweets Williams had written that made fun of the Republican candidate, particularly in regard to his wealth.
"Regrettably, an unacceptable number of Joe Williams's public statements on cable and Twitter have called into question his commitment to this responsibility," POLITICO's founding editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei wrote in a memo to the staff. "His comment about Governor Romney earlier today on MSNBC fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way."
If Politico doesn't get rid of Catanese double quick does that mean Politico stands by Catanese's Twitter meltdown?
This seems like a nuanced conversation we should definitely be having.
From: John Harris Subject: Twitter
We have had newsroom conversations about the importance of good judgment on social platforms like Twitter and the perils of letting that slip.
Unfortunately, today offered a good example. David Catanese crossed a line a reporter shouldn't cross on Twitter when he seemed to weigh in on the merits of Todd Akin's comments -- especially in a way many people, including many POLITICO colleagues, understandably found offensive.
Dave's tweets on Akin created a distraction to his own work, and to the newsroom as a whole. They also made himself part of the story, requiring us for now to remove him from Akin coverage.
Today's episode is a reminder that we need to be paying more attention to the ongoing issue of the right way for POLITICO journalists to be using social media. We have raised this issue before, and if you have questions about how this applies to your own work please speak with your direct editor.