Romney campaign rejects Akin 'rape' comments, Democrats seize on interview

The Romney campaign quickly distanced itself from controversial comments about rape made by Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri, as the Democrats tried to make the remarks stick to the GOP ticket.

Rep. Todd Akin, a six-term congressman running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, was hammered Sunday after telling an interviewer that a woman's body can typically prevent pregnancy during a "legitimate rape" -- as he argued against allowing abortions in cases of rape, claiming such pregnancies are uncommon in the first place.

"It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

As Democrats seized on the remarks, Akin backed off the comments later Sunday, saying he "misspoke."

The Romney campaign flatly rejected the comments.

"Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," the campaign said in a brief statement.

Romney, in an interview with the National Review, later called the comments "insulting" and "inexcusable."

Nevertheless, the Akin remarks became fast fodder for the Democratic National Committee, as Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to link Akin's stance to the Romney campaign.

"Now, Akin's choice of words isn't the real issue here. The real issue is a Republican Party -- led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong," she said in an email directing supporters to sign an anti-Romney petition on the DNC website.

She cited Romney's past comments on wanting to "get rid" of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The DNC email follows a pattern of trying to characterize the Romney ticket as "dangerous" to women, fueled in this case by comments from a congressman not tied to the presidential campaign.

The Akin comments stood to have an impact on the Missouri Senate race as well.

McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, said in an emailed statement Sunday that she found the comments "offensive."

"It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," McCaskill said. "The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."

Akin clarified his remarks in a written statement.

"In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year," Akin's statement said. "Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve."

Akin also said in the statement he believes "deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.