The media has to stop this practice of labeling anything controversial said by a politicians (or the one-percenters) as a ‘flub’ or a ‘gaffe’. Those labels should be reserved for either honest mistakes or for statements that were intended but have fairly trivial consequences. For a politician, confusing the names of the leaders of foreign countries is a gaffe. It does not tell us much about what the person’s views on foreign policy are. But saying something that you believe does not become transformed into a gaffe simply because it gets you in hot water.
When the Republican candidate for the US senate in Missouri Todd Akin propounded his bizarre theory that ‘legitimate rape’ does not usually result in pregnancy because a woman who does not want to be raped secretes something that kills sperm, that is not a flub or a gaffe, as some media outlets refer to it. It is also not something that was ‘misspoken’, as Akin tried to claim later.
Such a statement is in fact the product of a belief that arises from the desire to draw an absolute line and oppose abortion under all circumstances. Such people run into the problem that requiring a raped woman to carry the baby to term when she does not want to is extraordinarily cruel and not acceptable to most people. So this bizarre ‘theory’ has been created that argues backwards, that if the woman gets pregnant, she could not have been raped in the first place and so abortion should not be permitted.
So people who say such things are not making a ‘gaffe’ or a ‘flub’ or ‘misspeaking’. They are revealing an integral part of their belief system and should be held accountable for them. Akin should be pressed on why he believes that and whether he now repudiates it. He should not be allowed to claim the ‘gaffe’ exemption because that only allows this deeply wrong and offensive idea to have continued currency.
And what kind of people would believe such ‘theories’ in the first place? We can let Gene Wilder describe them to us.