ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

Misfiring Back: WND And Todd Akin's Book Botch

Has there ever been a more ill-conceived book-publicity strategy then WorldNetDaily's attempt to re-litigate Akin's controversial "legitimate rape" gaffe with such transparent dishonesty?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/24/2014

Todd Akin

WorldNetDaily's newest book is a memoir by Todd Akin, the former Missouri congressman who Senate bid imploded after he claimed that if a woman suffered a "legitimate rape," her body has ways to "shut that whole thing down."

And how is WND promoting the book? By re-litigating Akin's remarks and insisting they were accurate, even though the evidence it cites comes nowhere near to supporting the claim.

In a June 10 column, WND editor Joseph Farah insisted that "the anti-Akin hysteria was a completely manufactured smear":

It was the phrase “legitimate rape” that captured the attention of his opponents and the media. Why? I suppose some would like to pretend that all rape allegations are legitimate. Of course, that kind of thinking can lead to some great injustices, as we saw in the Duke lacrosse team witch hunt. Of even more significance, given the Akin controversy had to do with his explanation of why aborting an innocent unborn baby is not an appropriate response to rape, Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” in the famous Roe v. Wade case that resulted in the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down laws restricting abortion across the U.S., had claimed she was raped. Only later did she admit that was a completely contrived claim.

So there are rape claims that are not legitimate. That was Akin’s only point.

Curiously, Farah did not disclose in his column that he was publishing a book by Akin.

Farah defended Akin again in a June 16 column, insisting that “legitimate rape” is "a legal term of art in Missouri state law." He then asserted that Akin was correct that women can "shut that whole thing down":

Was he dead wrong about the impact of stress on infertility?

No, in fact there is a library of research on the subject, which, anyone who cares to Google the phrase “stress and fertility” can review firsthand. Scientific studies show that both the male and female are affected by stress during the sexual act, making pregnancy less likely during a traumatic experience like rape.

Farah did not link to any of that alleged research, even though there is purportedly a "library" of it available. Again, Farah failed to disclose he's publishing a book by Akin, though he included a link to it at the end of his column.

That supposed proof finally showed up in an unbylined June 25 WND article promoting Akin's book:

While two new fertility studies showing stress in males and females inhibits pregnancy have received worldwide attention, no one has linked them with the biggest U.S. political controversy of 2012 – Rep. Todd Akin’s suggestion that pregnancy as a result of rape is relatively infrequent.

That’s about to change as the unsuccessful Missouri Republican Senate candidate hits the media circuit in July for the first time since the 2012 election with the release of a new book, “Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom.”


Akin’s statement was criticized on two premises:

• The use of the term “legitimate rape,” with some suggesting Akin was attempting to delegitimize the crime of rape;

• His suggestion that it is unusual for rape victims to become pregnant.

Akin takes on the first point in “Firing Back”: “When a woman claims to have been raped, the police determine if the evidence supports the legal definition of ‘rape.’ Is it a legitimate claim of rape or an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy? Are the police warranted to take action against a crime or not? In short, the word ‘legitimate’ modifies the claim and not the action. There have been women who have lied about being raped, as Norma McCorvey did before the U.S. Supreme Court. The infamous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 was based on a lie.”

On the second point, Akin writes: “My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization. This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google ‘stress and fertilization,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject. The research is not conclusive, but there is considerable evidence that stress makes conception more difficult. And what could be more stressful than a rape?”

So Farah's "library of research" line is an unacknowledged direct quote of Akin. Some people might call that plagiarism.

Akin appears to be depending on the theory that all rape claims are illegitimate until proven otherwise. But as Slate's Amanda Marcotte points out, false rape reports are rare, and women falsely accusing men they consented to have sex with after the fact of rape is especially rare.

Further, the studies the anonymous WND writer cites in support of Akin's idea that stress decreases fertility focuses on long-term stress factors, not a single, sudden traumatic event like a rape. In fact-checking Akin's claim, PolitiFact reported:

The Chicago Tribune, citing a Mayo Clinic publication about infertility, reported in August that mental stress can temporarily alter an area of the brain that controls the hormones that regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle. The Tribune article reported that it is a chronic kind of situation that occurs over months or years, not the acute trauma of a rape.

In other words, the very evidence Akin and WND provide discredits their claim.

The Hillary distraction

With the 'stress" defense hitting a solid brick wall, it was time for a distraction, So WND's book promotion took a completely expected partisan turn in an unbylined June 26 article, in which WND and Akin try to make hay off the totally unrelated issue of Hillary Clinton's long-ago defense of a man accused of sexually assaulting a child:

Hillary Clinton apparently didn’t like a challenge from Todd Akin that she “de-legitimized” a 12-year-old rape victim’s claim in defense of a perpetrator she knew to be guilty as charged, as reported in the London Daily Mail Wednesday.

So she fired back in a retort to Politico Thursday through her rapid-response team: “Nobody should take advice from Todd Akin on women’s rights following his opposition to equal pay laws, his opposition to choice and opposition to rape protection laws, and his belief that women’s bodies ‘shut down’ during ‘legitimate rape’ to block unwanted pregnancy,” said communications director Adrienne Elrod.

Akin, a member of the House from Missouri who was attacked for a comment about “legitimate rape” during a 2012 campaign for the U.S. Senate, quickly responded in kind.

“It is curious to see that the Clinton camp chose to assassinate my character rather than to address my basic charge,” he told WND. “It is not so much that Hillary Clinton defended a child rapist – lawyers are required sometimes to do those things. But how can Ms. Clinton say she is for women’s rights when she laughed her way through an interview about getting a man she knew to be guilty off the hook for raping a 12-year-old?”


The interview took place in 1980, and recordings were recently unearthed at the Clinton Library in Little Rock. She conceded in that recording to seizing on loopholes to minimize the sentence of the man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. Heard laughing in the recording, Clinton said the polygraph test her client managed to pass “forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs.”

Akin tasked the media with making clear that “liberal Democrats like Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton are the true perpetrators of the ‘war on women.’” He added that by laughing while discussing the case, Clinton “de-legitimized the legitimate claims of the 12-year-old victim,” and that she “slandered the victim to justify her tactics.”

Akin seems to be unfamiliar with the American system of law in which defendants get a defense lawyer. It's absurd -- not to mention un-American -- for Akin to believe that a man does not deserve a legal defense because many people believe he's guilty. Clinton was assigned to the man's case and was obligated by law to provide the strongest defense she could.

Further, it's clear from the full context of her remarks that Clinton was laughing about the legal process, not getting a criminal off. Akin also provided no evidence that Clinton "slandered" the 12-year-old victim.

The WND article then descended into its usual boilerplate defense of Akin's "legitimate rape" remarks, suggesting that some rape claims are "an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy" because "There have been women who have lied about being raped."

If Akin is automatically presuming that any rape claim is automatically false because some undetermined number of women have lied about it in the past, that's hardly a solid defense of his remarks.

The quote-free defense

Farah tried to find a new way to defend the indefensible in his July 10 WND column:

I’m not even willing to concede Akin made a gaffe at all in his famous interview in August 2012. Initially I believed so – before I watched it. I was judging Akin on the basis of what others said he said. After watching it over and over again, I’m truly shocked that so much was made of it.

I invite you to watch the relevant part of that interview in context – probably for the first time.

It was clear to any objective, thinking person what he was saying. He was not questioning that “rape is rape,” as Barack Obama said in a hastily called press conference the next day. He never suggested that rape victims don’t ever get pregnant, as some headlines charged.
As you can see, Farah has taken the approach of not mentioning any of the actual words Akin used. No mention of "legitimate rape" -- which seems to presume that a woman is lying about being raped until proven otherwise -- or of Akin's idea that a woman can "shut that whole thing down," which depends on the fallacy that women can actively control her fertility depending on who is having sex with her.

While Akin "never suggested that rape victims don’t ever get pregnant," as Farah wrote, he did specifically say that pregnancy through rape was "really rare," which, again, falsely suggests that a woman can actively control her fertility.

Funny how Farah can declare "It was clear to any objective, thinking person what he was saying" without citing any of the words Akin was saying.

For his July 12 column, Farah pretended he was a real reporter and touted what he claimed was his "18 months of careful study of what [Akin] actually said and the way it was deliberately and purposely mangled by people with a political ax to grind," deciding it was somehow President Obama's fault:

Well, I conducted what you might call a forensic study of Todd Akin August 2012 political crisis. I wanted to determine what was the actual “tipping point” in the firestorm of controversy that made it one of the most memorable media stories of the presidential election year.

Using search-engine histories to track how Akin’s comments spiraled into the biggest political story three months before the election, my investigation revealed it was Obama’s statement at the “surprise” presidential press conference the day after that sent the controversy viral, causing the Republican leadership to throw Akin overboard, yanking his funding and calling for him to quit the race.

WND blames Obama for pretty much everything else, so why wouldn't Farah blame Obama for Akin's gaffe?

Farah has made this bed by publishing Akin's book, and he is incredibly determined to lie in it. If it means lying about and distorting what Akin actually said, so be it.

Whitewashing an Akin interview

WND's Bob Unruh -- he of the one-side reporting -- decided he wanted in on the corporate cheerleading for Akin. His July 15 WND article on Akin's interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly is a thinly disguised PR piece:

Eighteen months ago, then-Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin made an admittedly awkward description of rape, was abandoned by his own party and eventually lost to Democrat Claire McCaskill.

Monday night, on Megyn Kelly’s “The Kelly File” on the Fox News Channel, he broke his silence and charged that members of both parties were eager to make sure a true Reagan conservative wasn’t in Congress and asserted Democrats imposed a double standard.

He pointed out to Kelly that the Democrats own convention speaker, Bill Clinton, had a long history of facing claims of assault from women.

His own party’s leaders, he said, displayed arrogance, using his plight to argue social conservatives of his kind couldn’t get elected.


Akin clarified for Kelly that there are stress factors that can affect whether a victim gets pregnant, and he said that by “legitimate rape” he meant a “legitimate rape claim.”

And that's all Unruh has to say about Akin's discussion with Kelly about his previous remarks -- which conveniently leaves out all the parts where Kelly challenged Akin's narrative. More honest reporting of the Akin-Kelly interview took place at TPM:

Fox News host Megyn Kelly took failed Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin to task Monday night for his infamous claim that the female body could terminate a pregnancy in a case of "legitimate rape."

Akin appeared on "The Kelly File" to promote his new book, "Firing Back," in which he defends his original remarks on the grounds that stress can decrease fertility. Kelly challenged that defense, arguing there is no conclusive evidence tying the two together.

"But the thing that got people so upset was that you seemed to be putting the onus on rape victims, saying if yours was a legitimate rape, if you actually were raped, then your body will shut down the pregnancy," Kelly said. "And if your body doesn't shut down the pregnancy, then you are not the victim of rape."

"I think you're putting words in my mouth, I didn't say that," Akin responded.

"I'm just saying this is what people heard," Kelly said.

"I think that's what they heard, and that's why we did the apology," Akin said.

"See I get that, that's why you did the apology, but you seem to be dialing it back now," Kelly pressed.

Akin later said that he never meant to diminish women or the seriousness of rape as a crime in his comments.

"But you now acknowledge that a woman who is legitimately the victim of rape does not have a medical way of getting rid of -- an emotional way of getting rid of the pregnancy," Kelly said.

"No, I never believed that," Akin said. "That wasn't what I was trying to say, or I don't think I did say that. But people perceived that, and that's why we did the apology."

Unruh's article included the video of the Akin-Kelly interview, so he obviously had access to the full interview. He simply chose to not accurately report what was said. Such dishonesty is emblematic of how WND has promoted Akin's book.

A Farah tantrum

Because Farah has trouble getting through a week without engaging in a fit of self-aggrandizing whining, he devoted a July 20 column to complaining that Akin's book was being ignored by the media:

I thought ABC, CBS and NBC would be salivating to get their favorite punching bag on the air to be mauled, again, for old times’ sake. I thought they would jump at the opportunity to have this caricature they had created on live TV. After all, if he was the dope they suggested, it would be great television – good ratings.

I was wrong. Though we talked with the producers of all the big news shows on the networks, none of them were interested in having him on. Why? Because they are cowards! It wasn’t just that they didn’t want to give Todd Akin the time of day. They weren’t sure they could manage to maintain the negative image they had created for him. What if America got to see the truth about this sincere, honest, devout family man? Might they actually like him? Might they actually buy his book?

Wow! That could really backfire, couldn’t it?

So they took a powder.

Farah praised Fox's Kelly for being "unafraid" to interview Akin but, like his employee Unruh, failed to mention how strongly Kelly challenged Akin.

Then came the self-aggrandizing part:

When I launched 17 years ago as the first independent online news source, I believed in my heart that this experiment would revolutionize the media. In many ways it has. I thought competition was the way to change the media culture. I still do. But, sadly, I find the Big Media are actually far worse today than they were 20 years ago. I didn’t even think that was possible. But it was and is.

Farah didn't discuss how WND has "revolutionized" the media in another way: Few other media outlets have so beclowned themselves with obsessive hatred of a president that it simply didn't care that what they published was factually accurate. Few media outlets have become so utterly discredited yet remained in business.

That same disregard for facts is presumably also behind WND's decision to promote Akin's book by pretending his wildly wrong comments were actually true. If WND wants to regain any semblance of credibility, perhaps it needs to rethink its marketing strategy.

Send this page to:

Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-2014 Terry Krepel