Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett repudiated fellow Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s comments on rape Tuesday, while his campaign manager called an attempt by Maryland Democrats to tie Bartlett to the controversy “disgusting.”
Akin, the GOP nominee for Senate from Missouri, continues to resist pressure from Republican leaders to withdraw from the race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill after he told a local television interviewer that women rarely get pregnant from rape. He had been asked whether he would support abortion in such a circumstance.
Bartlett, a 10-term incumbent facing a challenge from Democrat John Delaney in the state’s most competitive congressional race, said he has known Akin for more than a decade and considers him a friend. But he called his comments “offensive and wrong.”
“There is no room in politics for these types of statements,” the Western Maryland Republican said in a statement Tuesday. “As a human physiologist I know there is no scientific backing to Todd’s claims.”
Bartlett earned a doctorate in physiology at the University of Maryland, taught at the Loma Linda and Howard University medical schools and worked as a scientist at the National Institutes of Health and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Delaney had called on Bartlett to denounce Akin’s comments. In a release Monday, he noted that Bartlett had co-sponsored, with Akin and others, legislation that would ban abortion in cases or rape or incest.
The House bill last year would have placed abortion restrictions on some federal tax breaks for medical care. Federal laws have long banned the use of taxpayer money for abortions except in cases of rape and incest or to save the life of the mother.
Last year's proposal initially referred to an exception for "forcible" rape. Critics said this apparently new construction could create new definitions of rape -- distinguishing, for example, between a violent assault and other forms of rape, such as sex with a child or an unconscious victim.
The wording eventually was dropped from the bill the House passed.
“While we respectfully disagree on many issues, I would hope Congressman Bartlett and I could agree there should be no qualification when it comes to an issue as serious as rape,” Delaney said. “I denounce the comments by Rep. Akin and hope Congressman Bartlett will do the same.”
The Maryland Democratic Party, meanwhile, issued several tweets on the subject Monday. The Bartlett campaign took particular exception to one: “Why is @Roscoe_Bartlett silent on Todd Akin? Oh, because he wants to redefine rape too.”
Bartlett campaign manager Ted Dacey said the attempt to link Bartlett to Akin’s comments was despicable.
“This is the type of negative politics that Marylanders are sick and tired of,” Dacey said. “John Delaney should publicly repudiate this untrue and disgusting statement from his state party, just as Congressman Bartlett has repudiated Todd Akin’s comments.”
In response, Delaney's campaign manager said he didn't know which of the party's tweets the Bartlett campaign was talking about.
“Roscoe Bartlett’s campaign wants us to renounce the Democratic Party’s tweets but won’t explain which one is objectionable,” campaign manager Justin Schall said. “The party sent out numerous tweets yesterday and Bartlett needs to clarify which one he is talking about.”
The Maryland Democratic Party has now weighed in:
"After having the facts of his record pointed out Roscoe Bartlett is on the attack," the party said in a release. "Rather than engage in a pointless back and forth there are two simple questions Bartlett should answer to let Maryland voters know where he stands on women’s issues:
"1. Does Roscoe Bartlett believe abortion should be legal in the case or rape or incest?
"2. What does Roscoe Bartlett believe the difference is between rape and 'forcible rape?'"
“The only thing that needs repudiation is Roscoe Bartlett’s voting record on women’s issues,” said David Sloan, Executive Director of the Maryland Democratic Party.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.