Mike Huckabee turned heads Thursday with a bizarre remark from right field about women and their “libidos.”
Speaking at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, Huckabee was pushing back on the Democratic talking point about a GOP “war on women” when he said Democrats tell women that “they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.”
The former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate’s comments sparked a wave of headlines, followed by migraines for Republican operatives who are all too familiar with men in their party saying dumb or offensive things that exacerbate the GOP’s problems with women voters. It shined light on a recurring problem for Republicans: a resentment within the party’s ranks toward non-procreative sex.
Here’s a brief history.
Perhaps the most infamous example came during the 2012 election cycle, when Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri, mused openly about “legitimate rape” when insisting (wrongly) that rape does not actually result in pregnancy. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” Akin told a local news station.
The comment seemed to single-handedly destroy Akin’s campaign — he went from leading in the polls to being disowned by his party and ultimately losing the race to vulnerable incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) by a wide margin.
Pregnancy From Rape Can Be ‘Something That God Intended’
Also during the 2012 election cycle, Indiana’s Richard Mourdock damaged his (ultimately unsuccessful) campaign for Senate by arguing that pregnancy that results from rape is sometimes part of God’s plan.
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” he said during a televised debate. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Amid a raging debate in 2012 over Obamacare’s contraception mandate, Rush Limbaugh launched a misogynistic tirade against reproductive rights activist Sandra Fluke. “What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute,” said the No. 1 most listened-to radio host in the United States. “She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.”
After howls of outrage from across the political spectrum and the withdrawal of several of his sponsors, Limbaugh eventually offered a half-hearted apology to Fluke for his “choice of words.”
‘Aspirin … Between Their Knees’
Foster Friess, the wealthy Republican donor who invested heavily in Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign, made an antiquated reference to aspirin being used for birth control. “This contraception thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive,” he said that February on MSNBC. “You know, back in my days, they’d use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”
Santorum later called it a “stupid joke” but said Friess was a “good man.”
Todd Akin Was ‘Partially Right’
For some reason, the chairman of the House Republican Doctors Caucus felt the need to defend Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments as “partially right” after witnessing the damage it had done to his party in the 2012 election.
“Look, in a legitimate rape situation — and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), an OB-GYN. “I don’t find anything so horrible about that.”
His office later backed off his remarks and said, “I do not defend, nor do I stand by, the remarks made by Rep. Akin and Mr. Mourdock.”
‘Some Girls Rape Easy’
Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard (R) in 2012 said that when he was young, his father warned him not to have premarital sex because “some girls” would later claim they were raped even if it was consensual.
“He also told me one thing, ‘If you do (have premarital sex), just remember, consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry,’ ” Rivard said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Because all of a sudden a young lady gets pregnant and the parents are madder than a wet hen and she’s not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I was part of the program.’ All that she has to say or the parents have to say is it was rape because she’s underage. And he just said, ‘Remember, Roger, if you go down that road, some girls,’ he said, ‘they rape so easy.'”