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.”

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


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