President Obama made a surprise appearance in the briefing room today, where he was asked about the comments of Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who suggested that "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in pregnancy because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," comments that are medically erroneous and from which Akin has since backed away.
"The views expressed were offensive," President Obama said. "Rape is rape and the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and it certainly doesn't make sense to me."
The president tried to use the comments to draw a starker line between his and Mitt Romney's views on abortion and women's health issues.
"What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women," the president said.
"Although these particular comments have led Governor Romney and other Republicans to distance themselves, I think the underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions or qualifying forcible rape versus non-forcible rape, I think those are broader issues and that is a significant difference in approach between me and the other party," Mr. Obama said.
He allowed that Akin's comments were not widespread within the GOP and his Republican opponents. "I don't think that they would agree with the Senator [sic] from Missouri in terms of his statement, which was way out there," he said.
Asked if Akin should drop out of the Missouri Senate race against vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill, D Mo. - as Senate Republicans Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have suggested he should do - the president said, "He was nominated by the Republicans of Missouri, I'll let them sort that out."
-Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce