Fact Check

Did Republicans Actually Say These Things About Rape?

A list purportedly offers controversial and embarrassing statements about rape made by Republican politicians.

Published Feb. 27, 2014

Updated Sept. 29, 2020
A list collects statements about rape made by Republican politicians.

A "Republicans on Rape" graphic widely circulated online since 2014 collects various comments about that crime supposedly made by GOP politicians in recent years:

The remarks collected in that graphic were indeed all uttered by the persons to whom they have been attributed; below we offer four of the statements on video (also on YouTube), as well as the context in which they were made, and any clarifying remarks subsequently offered by their speakers.

"Rape is kinda like the weather. If it's inevitable, relax and enjoy it."

On 24 March 1990, Texas oilman Clayton Williams, the Republican nominee in the Lone Star State's upcoming gubernatorial election, was preparing for a cattle roundup at his West Texas ranch while undesirable weather conditions threatened to spoil the event. As he sat around a campfire with ranch hands, campaign workers, and reporters, Williams likened that day's cold, foggy weather to rape, saying, "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."

Later that day Williams asserted that his comment had been a joke, and a few days later his campaign offered an apologetic statement about it:

Mr. Williams said it was merely a joke and apologized "if anyone's offended."

"That's not a Republican women's club that we were having this morning," he said. "It's a working cow camp, a tough world where you can get kicked in the testicles if you're not careful."

Asked if some people might be offended, Mr. Williams said: "I'm not going to give you a serious answer. It wasn't a serious deal. It wasn't a serious statement."

But his campaign issued a statement in which Mr. Williams said: "I feel just terrible about this. I had no intention in my heart to hurt anyone, especially those women who have been traumatized by rape.

"Looking back, I realize it was insensitive and had no place at the campfire or in any setting."

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down."

On 19 August 2012, U.S. Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, a Republican who was challenging incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill for her seat in the U.S. Senate, was interviewed by St. Louis television station KTVI. During that interview, Akin was asked whether he believed abortion was justified in cases of rape, and he responded by asserting that "legitimate rapes" rarely resulted in pregnancy: "It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

After his words touched off widespread outrage, Akin then issued a statement maintaining that his remarks were "off-the-cuff" and that he "misspoke in this interview":

As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. 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. 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.

I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.

Two years later, while appearing in another television interview with MSNBC to promote his new book Firing Back, Akin asserted that "legitimate rape" was a law enforcement term and that his original remark had been "intentionally misunderstood":

"Legitimate rape is a law enforcement term, it's an abbreviation for 'legitimate case of rape,'” he told Chuck Todd. "A woman calls a police station, the police investigate, she says 'I've been raped,' they investigate that. So before any of the facts are in, they call it a legitimate case of rape," explained Aiken.

Akin believes that everyone took what he said out of context. "This was intentionally misunderstood and twisted for political purposes. It doesn't make any sense to say 'a conservative is saying that rape is legitimate,' that doesn’t even add up."

Time magazine noted that they were unable to find a law enforcement official familiar with the term "legitimate rape":

But is "legitimate rape" really a law enforcement term? We asked some experts.

"I've taught police officers, and worked with police officers on every continent in the world, and that's something I've never heard in my 50 years in law enforcement," says Dr. James A. Williams, former Chief of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces for the U.S Department of Justice, who also worked in municipal law enforcement in New Jersey. "I've never heard of that. Never."

Richard Lichten, a veteran of the LA County Sheriff's Department and expert on sexual assault investigations agrees:

"I have 30 years of experience, I'm qualified to testify in federal court on the way to investigate sexual assault crimes, and I've never heard of that," said Lichten. "In all my life I've never heard of that."

"Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation."

On 20 January 2012, Rick Santorum, a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania who was then campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight program and was asked by that show's host about his stance on abortion and whether he believed abortion was wrong even in cases of incest and rape. Santorum responded by saying that although a pregnancy resulting from a rape might be "horrible," it was nonetheless a "gift of human life" and that "we have to make the best out of a bad situation":

MORGAN: On abortion, you did harden your position on that as you got older. Why was that?

SANTORUM: Life. You know, when I decided to run for public life, I was informed very quickly people wanted to know what my position on that was. So I went through the process of trying to better understand the facts.

It became very clear to me that life begins at conception and persons are covered by the Constitution and since life — people, a human life is the same as a person, to me it was a pretty simple deduction to make. That's what the Constitution clearly intended to protect.

MORGAN: But do you really — do you really — let me ask you this. Do you really believe, in every case, it should be totally wrong, in the sense that — I know that you believe, even in cases of rape and incest — and you've got two daughters. You know, if you have a daughter that came to you who had been raped.


MORGAN: And was pregnant and was begging you to let her have an abortion, would you really be able to look her in the eye and say, no, as her father?

SANTORUM: I would do what every father must do, is to try to counsel your daughter to do the right thing.

MORGAN: And they are looking at their daughter, saying, how can I deal with this, because if I make her have this baby, isn't it going to just ruin her life?

SANTORUM: Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn't have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice. I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or doesn't, it will always be her child. And she will always know that. And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I've always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.

As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life. We have horrible things happen. I can't think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.

"Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

On 23 October 2012, Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for one of Indiana's U.S. Senate seats, was engaged in a debate with his Democratic and Libertarian rivals when he expressed his view that "life begins at conception" and that he would only allow abortions in circumstances in which the mother's life was in danger:

I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

After the debate, Mourdock explained that when he said "it is something that God intended to happen," he was referring to the creation of life and not the act of rape itself:

Mourdock, seeking to clarify his comments in a press conference following the debate, said he had intended to say that "God creates life," and that any interpretation of his comments to mean God "pre-ordained rape" were "sick" and "twisted."

"What I said was, in answering the question form my position of faith, I said I believe that God creates life. I believe that as wholly and as fully as I can believe it. That God creates life," Mourdock said. "Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think that God pre-ordained rape? No, I don't think that. That's sick. Twisted. That's not even close to what I said. What I said is that God creates life."

"In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out."

On 23 June 2013, Jodie Laubenberg, a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives, was debating a measure she had introduced to the House that included a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. When Rep. Senfronia Thompson proposed an exemption for victims of rape and incest, Laubenberg argued against that exemption, saying that when a victim seeks medical care after a rape, "they have what's called rape kits, that the woman can get cleaned out, basically like" [a procedure known as D and C that is often performed after a miscarriage]. She also noted that emergency contraception is available.

A few days later, after she was mocked over her remark, Laubenberg said she was "confused by Democrats' questions and misspoke" and meant to say that rape victims could "obtain emergency contraception and other treatment" at medical facilities:

Rape kits are used to collect evidence in hopes of prosecuting the perpetrator. They play no role in preventing pregnancy or serving as an abortion.

Laubenberg was widely mocked on social media, and opponents of the bill called her comments evidence of the misguided science behind Laubenberg's proposal.

Laubenberg told North Texas talk radio host Mark Davis that she was momentarily confused by Democrats' questions and misspoke. "What I was trying to say is, when a woman goes to the hospital, that they have the procedures there" to help her obtain emergency contraception and other treatment, she said. "No, rape kits do not cause an abortion." As for the reaction, Laubenberg added: "If that's the worst that you can complain about me, go ahead."

"If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn't a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist's pursuit of sexual freedom doesn't (in most cases) result in anyone's death."

In February 2014, the Maine Democratic Party called for the resignation of Lawrence Lockman, a Republican member of the Maine House of Representatives, when a liberal activist made a blog post detailing negative public statements about gays, abortion and rape that Lockman had made years earlier:

The post by Maine People’s Alliance activist Mike Tipping mined press clippings to unearth several offensive comments. In one, Lockman implied that HIV and AIDS could be spread by bed sheets and mosquitoes. In another, he said that the progressive movement assisted the AIDS epidemic by assuring "the public that the practice of sodomy is a legitimate alternative lifestyle, rather than a perverted and depraved crime against humanity." In a 1995 letter in the Sun Journal in Lewiston, a reader quoted a press statement by Lockman, then part of the Pro Life Education Association, saying, "If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn't a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist's pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death."

Lockman responded to the controversy by issuing a statement affirming that he regretted his previous remarks:

Most of the comments were made during the 1980s and 1990s, but Maine Democratic Party chairman Ben Grant issued a statement calling for Lockman's resignation. Grant said the comments were "hateful, vicious and offensive" and he called Lockman a "disturbed individual who holds some of the most abhorrent beliefs ever heard from a public official in Maine."

Lockman released a written statement.

"I have always been passionate about my beliefs, and years ago I said things that I regret. I hold no animosity toward anyone by virtue of their gender or sexual orientation, and today I am focused on ensuring freedom and economic prosperity for all Mainers," he said.


Alter, Charlotte.   "Todd Akin Still Doesn't Get What's Wrong with Saying 'Legitimate Rape.'"     Time.   17 July 2014.

Graff, Amy.   "Rick Santorum: Rape Babies Are Gifts from God"     San Francisco Chronicle.   24 January 2012.

Jaco, Charles.   "Jaco Report: Full Interview with Todd Akin."     KTVI-TV [St. Louis].   19 August 2012.

Madison, Lucy.   "Richard Mourdock: Even Pregnancy from Rape Something 'God Intended.'"     CBS News.   24 October 2012.

Mistler, Steve.   "Maine Lawmaker Says He Regrets Comments on Rape, Gays."     Portland Press Herald.   27 February 2014.

Mohammed, Ravelle.   "Santorum: Rape Victims Should 'Make Best of a Bad Situation' and Choose Life."     The Christian Post.   24 January 2012.

Moore, Lori.   "Rep. Todd Akin: The Statement and the Reaction."     The New York Times.   20 August 2012.

Associated Press.   "Texas Candidate's Comment About Rape Causes a Furor."     The New York Times.   26 March 1990.

The Dallas Morning News.   "Rape-Kit Remarks Put Rep. Jodie Laubenberg in Spotlight."     25 June 2013.


Sept. 30, 2020: Updated video link.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.