When I found out about Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) colossal interview fail on Sunday, it wasn’t on CNN, Fox or MSNBC — it was on Facebook. Even pals who never tune into the news or follow politics were sharing this story like crazy, if only because they were aghast at his deep ignorance about an important women’s health issue. Basically, the politician appeared in a television interview, (mis)stating that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy because somehow, women’s lady parts can magically “shut that whole thing down.”
If you somehow haven’t heard about this, believe me — I’m not making this up. Here’s proof:
So epic was this gaffe that the clip went viral, sparking criticism and outrage that compelled Akin to “kinda/sorta” recant, claiming that he misspoke. What’s worse, at least for this Missouri congressman, was that he was the favorite in a senate race at the time.
Twitter was red-hot after this debacle, even giving rise to a new hashtag — #LegitimateRape — and an account of the same name. On Facebook, people were gobsmacked and shared the story in huge numbers. The story spread so fast and so far, it was stunning. Before social media, something like this could take days, weeks, even months to form into a bona fide career-ending controversy. Now Akin has practically been disavowed, with the GOP urging him to give up the election — all after just a single day. (Side note: It might’ve been even faster, had it not happened over the weekend.)
It’s hard to pinpoint what the worst part of this is. Was it that he believed this incredibly inane tidbit, that he had the incredibly poor judgment to talk about it on television (which would surely yield a video that would set the Internet on fire), or that, following the swell of shock and anger streaming out from a very vocal public on social media, he could think such a lame apology was appropriate?
While blogs might postulate about how Akin might redeem himself, at least online if nowhere else — because, really, who would give this guy another platform? — there are some things that you can’t come back from. The web does not forgive easily, and indeed, it doesn’t forget.