KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin may have apologized and tried to explain himself, but it hasn't helped the political mess created Sunday when he used the term "legitimate rape" during a television interview in St. Louis.
On Sunday, Akin told an interviewer at St. Louis FOX affiliate KTVI that women who are victims of "legitimate rape" don't get pregnant because their bodies have a way to "shut that whole thing down." A clip of the interview was then posted online by the liberal super PAC American Bridge.
Akin's comments drew national attention almost immediately, including a response from his opponent in November, incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who posted on her Twitter account, "As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM."
"The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive," McCaskill later added in a statement.
However by Monday, McCaskill made another comment, less critical of Rep. Akin and more critical of his fellow Republicans
"While I disagree with what he said, he has now just within the last few hours apologized for what he said and I think what`s startling to me is that these party big wigs are coming down on him and telling him he should kick sand in the face of the Missouri Republican primary voters," McCaskill said.
On Sunday afternoon, Akin's campaign released a statement from the candidate apologizing for the remarks. It read in part:
"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."
On Monday, The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced it will no longer support Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri in his U.S. Senate bid, a source from the group told CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.
It was communicated to the congressman that the NRSC will be pulling out if he decides to stay in the race, the source said one day after the Senate candidate sparked a firestorm by claiming that "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in pregnancy.
Multiple Republicans have distanced themselves from Akin since he originally made the comment, and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts called on him to step down from his position as GOP nominee.
Top congressional Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas advised Akin to spend time considering what is best for his family, party and country -- political code for urging him to withdraw.
"What he said is just flat wrong in addition to being wildly offensive to any victim of sexual abuse," McConnell said in a statement. "Although Representative Akin has apologized, I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election."
Akin has until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to withdraw his name. If he does, the party will nominate a new person in his place.
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said in the initial interview. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted "legitimate rape."
He added: "But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
In a statement on Sunday, Akin wrote that he misspoke in the interview and he maintained his opposition to abortion for victims of rape. His radio interview on Monday offered a stronger apology.
One of the nation's most prominent conservative organizations rallied to Akin's defense. Top officials from the Family Research Council said Akin is the target of a Democratic smear campaign, and they also chided Republicans calling for him to step down.
Connie Mackey with the Family Research Council said that Republicans calling on Akin to apologize or drop out should get "backbone."