Politico’s Catanese no longer covering Akin controversy after defending ‘legitimate rape’ comment

The Huffington Post | The Washington Post | Talking Points Memo
Politico reporter David Catanese will no longer be covering the scandal over U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape,” according to The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. Catanese tweeted Monday morning that he didn’t mean to take sides when he defended Akin’s statement that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.

“Re last night: Bad idea trying to have nuanced conversation on highly charged issue on here,” Catanese tweeted. “Did not intend to take a side. Lesson learned.”

Catanese had tweeted Sunday night that, for argument’s sake, he was going to defend Akin .

“So perhaps some can agree that all rapes that are reported are not actually rapes?” Catanese tweeted. “Or are we gonna really deny that for PC sake?” Though his tweets raise questions about whether political reporters should openly defend candidates they cover, Catanese’s story about Akin’s remarks is quite fair.

The Washington Post’s Wemple wondered what compelled Catanese to defend Akin:

“Catanese’s open-air riffing appears to stem from a sense that everything in the political realm welcomes a point-counterpoint exchange. That perhaps some more expertly chosen words would resolve this mess.”

Readers on Twitter have called Catanese “dense,” a “true idiot,” and “a rape apologist for a thought experiment.”

Monday night, Wemple published an email sent by Politico editor-in-chief John Harris to staff: “David Catanese crossed a line a reporter shouldn’t cross on Twitter when he seemed to weigh in on the merits of Todd Akin’s comments — especially in a way many people, including many POLITICO colleagues, understandably found offensive.”

Viewers of the KTVI-TV interview with Akin, meanwhile, have wondered why journalist Charles Jaco didn’t push back after the “legitimate rape” comment.

Jaco, who has interviewed Akin multiple times, told Talking Points Memo that he was running out of time in the 18-minute interview and that Akin had already “said the Voting Rights Act of 1965 deserves a second look. ‘At this point, I don’t know if I was inoculated to odd things that might have been said,’ ” Jaco told David Taintor. Whatever the cause, he acknowledged he “dropped the ball” by not following up on Akin’s remark.

In hindsight, Jaco said he should have taken a deep breath and asked the congressman if he believes women’s bodies somehow prevent them from becoming pregnant after a rape. A number of viewers wrote in to express their disappointment that Jaco didn’t follow up. Jaco said he has apologized to each of them.

“When you’re not 100 percent fully engaged, and you’ve got anything else on your mind, you’ll miss stuff. We all brain fart sooner or later, and this is mine.”

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  • Mary Tillotson

    I realize CDC is usually/sometimes? a reliable source, but in this particular case (estimated number of pregnancies due to rape), it ain’t so. CDC’s website claims the number for such pregnancies is “more than 32,000″ every year, and attributes that number, in a footnote, to an article in the “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.” The cited “Journal” article, in turn, attributes ITS stat to an outfit called RAINN/Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. http://www.rainn.org
    Here’s what RAINN’s website actually says:
    “In 2004 – 2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.”
    More than 3,000 pregnancies a year resulting from rape is awful enough. The “more than 32,ooo”
    struck me as improbably high. But the number was repeated without a quibble by “journalists” at both the Washington POST and Huffington Post. Let’s hope those publications will see this note to Poynter and correct the error. I won’t hold my breath.
    Decades ago a really good journalism prof told the classroom of kids in which I sat that an essential characteristic of a really good reporter is skepticism. Guess the “reporters”/”editors”
    who let that ten-fold error into the Wash and Huff POSTS have a skepticism deficiency.

  • Anonymous

    yes, journalism often is embarrassingly timid in seeking and reporting the truth. another example: rudy giuliani’s (sp?) attacks on joe biden this past weekend. i saw rudy’s attack reported at least 4 times on network tv but only about 2 of them FAILED to mention that rudy’s comments likely were influenced by some sharply critical remarks biden made about rudy during a 2008 democratic presidential debate. they obviously still sting.

    among other things, rudy said biden “is not very smart” and is a “joke line on leno.” i’d put biden’s brain power up against rudy’s any day, AND rudy himself has been and perodically CONTINUES to be the butt of jokes of every comic on tv. so he totally misrepresented the factual context. further, rudy even had the nerve to claim that if a gop misspoke as often as biden, the “media” would be screaming about it from the roof tops. rudy obviously doesn’t have the intellect to know that it is reports FROM the “media” that regularly document biden’s gaffes which, in fact, are not much different from mutt’s repeated misstatements.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Berman/100000669729095 Dan Berman

    And this is what’s wrong with journalism today. In trying to be so fair, ridiculous, non-factual statements get treated the same as those that make fair arguments but are controversial. The Romney-Ryan line about Obama cutting Medicare is the same thing. It’s demonstrably false, but for very one time that fact is mentioned, 10 articles repeat it as part of the campaign.