spin cycle: i misspoke

Welcome back to Spin Cycle, where we publicly shame people who are bullshitting us in the news.

Today’s unlucky subject is U.S. congressman Todd Akin, who has several interesting (and false) ideas about rape and women’s bodies. When civilized society called bullshit on him, Akin said he “misspoke.”

Misspeaking is a slip of the tongue. It’s saying right when you meant left, mixing up one statistic with another, addressing someone by the wrong name. We’ve all done it. It’s embarrassing, but not a disaster. Someone corrects us* and we say, “Oh, sorry, I meant North Dakota.”

Politicians love saying they misspoke when they didn’t. Listen for it when they use racial slurs or other bad words and when they make any statement that sounds too honest. It’s easier to say you misspoke than to admit you’re an asshole or that you didn’t know what you were talking about.

So back to our friend congressman Akin. His problem isn’t that he misspoke — it’s that he revealed his actual beliefs to us on camera. He stated very clearly that women’s bodies have special birth-control powers that kick in only when they are “legitimately” raped, which is wrong in at least three different ways. You can’t be that many kinds of wrong by accident.

*Instead of improvising a follow-up question such as “What the hell did you just say?” or “Please tell me more about this intriguing feature of human physiology,” the guy interviewing the congressman moved right along to his next scripted question. Let us all learn from his mistake.