Eager to keep the Todd Akin controversy alive on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams declared the Missouri Republican's comments were "inflicting unforeseen and great damage on the national party." Correspondent Andrea Mitchell began her report by proclaiming: "...only days before their convention, Republicans remain trapped in a national debate about abortion and rape." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Mitchell quickly attempted to link vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to Akin: "Ryan co-sponsored one bill with Akin that critics say could outlaw all abortions, even for rape victims." She then tried to connect Mitt Romney: "Romney once supported abortion rights, but reversed course before his first run for the White House. In 2007, he embraced anti-abortion activist Dr. John Wilkie, the man who came up with the discredited rape theory that Akin was citing."
After noting that the uproar was "not what Mitt Romney wants to focus on," Mitchell promised the media would not let it go: "If the Republicans thought that they could escape this issue, the party's platform committee has adopted a strong anti-abortion plank with no exceptions for rape victims."
On Thursday's Today, correspondent Peter Alexander followed Mitchell's lead, as he told viewers: "Paul Ryan – who co-sponsored a bill with Akin that opponents say could ban all abortion, even in the case of rape – unsuccessfully urged his friend and colleague to abandon his [Senate] bid."
As Alexander spoke, an image appearred on screen of Ryan and Akin standing side by side with the headline: "Will Ryan Follow Akin or Romney on Abortion?"
Alexander then promoted President Obama exploiting the flap:
...the President tried to capitalize on the outrage surrounding Congressman Akin, telling guests at a New York City fundraiser the following, he said, "The interesting thing here is that this is an individual who hits on the House Committee on Science and Technology, but somehow missed science class." "But it's representative," Obama said, "of a desire to go backwards instead of forwards and to fight fights that we thought were settled 20 or 30 years ago."
Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's August 22 Nightly News report:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: On the campaign trail today, Congressman Todd Akin continued what's being called his apology tour for his remarks about rape and abortion, after inflicting unforeseen and great damage on the national party. But there is more to report tonight and NBC's Andrea Mitchell has that story.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Mitt Romney in Iowa, Paul Ryan in North Carolina. Today both zeroing in on the economy. But because of Todd Akin, only days before their convention, Republicans remain trapped in a national debate about abortion and rape.
TODD AKIN: It's been exciting days. We're doing the best we can.
MITCHELL: On Today, Akin told Matt Lauer he misspoke, does not believe in so-called "legitimate rape."
AKIN: While I apologize for the misuse of that word, at the same time, I don't apologize for the fact I am strong in my belief of pro-life.
MITCHELL: Paul Ryan co-sponsored one bill with Akin that critics say could outlaw all abortions, even for rape victims. Today Ryan said he would now follow Mitt Romney's lead on the issue.
PAUL RYAN: Mitt Romney's going to be the president, the president sets policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother. I'm comfortable with it because it's a good step in the right direction.
MITCHELL: Romney once supported abortion rights, but reversed course before his first run for the White House. In 2007, he embraced anti-abortion activist Dr. John Wilkie, the man who came up with the discredited rape theory that Akin was citing. A theory Dr. Wilkie repeated only two days ago, telling the New York Times rape victims are unlikely to get pregnant. Saying, quote, "This is a traumatic thing – she's, shall we say, she's uptight...she is frightened tight and so on. And sperm...are less likely to be able to fertilize." Not what Mitt Romney wants to focus on.
DAVID BRODY [CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK]: Romney took pains to go out of his way to make sure he never talked about abortion, whether it be to me or to others. And he just didn't want to have anything to do with it and here he is having to talk about it.
MITCHELL: Meanwhile, Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, all but counted out before the controversy, now has a real chance.
CLAIRE MCCASKILL: I'm going to run against Todd Akin and we're going to draw the contrasts that I think are necessary so that voters know that he's outside the mainstream.
MITCHELL: If the Republicans thought that they could escape this issue, the party's platform committee has adopted a strong anti-abortion plank with no exceptions for rape victims. But tonight, a top Romney aide told me that the important thing for voters is that Mitt Romney has clearly made it clear that he disagrees entirely with Todd Akin's views. Brian.
WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell in our D.C. newsroom tonight. Andrea, thanks.