Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Thursday that he and other conservative and evangelical leaders met with Rep. Todd Akin Wednesday night in Tampa to discuss ways to keep his embattled U.S. Senate campaign afloat.
Perkins described the meeting as an informal gathering of Akin and friends, ”to talk with him and encourage him in the stand that he’s taking,” and made clear that FRC, an influential Christian conservative organization, still supports Akin’s bid for the Senate from Missouri.
In the interview with Mitchell, Perkins aimed to downplay the seriousness of Akin’s ”legitimate rape” comments.Akin figures to be highly dependent on backing from FRC and its allies. Since his comments on “legitimate rape” Sunday sparked a firestorm of outrage, he’s been all but disowned by the GOP. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan among others have called on him to quit the race, while the RNC, NRSC, and Karl Rove’s Super PAC all have said they plan to withdraw their support for his campaign. Akin announced Tuesday he planned to stay in the race, citing support from social conservatives.
“It was a ‘Biden-ism’ that he made,” Perkins said. “It was inexcusable, it was inappropriate—he has acknowledged as such, and he’s moving on.”
“We’re not talking about a moral failure here,” Perkins added. “We’re talking about someone who misspoke.”
Republican leaders are scrambling to explain their official stance on abortion ahead of next week’s convention. The party this week approved a plank in the platform expressing opposition to abortion and including no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother. In response, RNC chair Reince Priebus pointed out on MSNBC that the platform “is not the platform of Mitt Romney.” Romney has said he supports those exceptions.
But the party still appears worried about being painted as extreme on the issue, in the wake of Akin’s comments. In an interview Thursday on CNN, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer argued that the absence of exceptions in the party plank means only that the party hasn’t taken a position on the exceptions issue, not that it opposes any exceptions.