Koster: No intent to trivialize rape with controversial comment

Koster: No intent to trivialize rape with controversial comment »Play Video
John Koster
SEATTLE -- A day after Republican congressional candidate John Koster said abortion should not be legal, even when it involves "the rape thing," he explained his controversial comment to a Seattle conservative talk radio station.

"There was never any intent on my part to be trivializing, be flippant or cavalier in any way, shape or form in my reference to the heinous crime of rape," Koster told KVI-AM Radio. "In my tenure in the state Legislature, there's nobody harder on sex offenses than I was. As far as I'm concerned, we can put these guys away for life."

An activist working on behalf of liberal group FUSE Washington asked Koster questions during a Sunday fundraiser. Koster said he does not oppose abortion when the life of the mother is in danger but then explains he would oppose it when it involves rape or incest.

Koster twice uses the phrase "the rape thing" when describing his views, first saying that he knows a woman who was raped and gave up the child for adoption without any regrets.

"But on the rape thing, it's like, how does putting more violence onto a woman's body and taking the life of an innocent child that's a consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?" Koster said in the exchange.

Koster is locked in a competitive House race against Democrat Suzan DelBene, who spoke out against Koster's comments Wednesday evening.

"I think his comments were offensive. They were extremely insensitive," DelBene said. "I think that women should have the right to make their own healthcare decisions between themselves and their doctors."

During Thursday's interview with KVI, Koster said the fuss over the comment was fueled by the media and those who oppose his position.

"In fact, some of these people who are hammering me now are the same people who think we can council and coddle these people into wellness and we give them too little jail time and we put them back into our communities," Koster said. "This is nothing more than a media assist throwing a life-line to DelBene because they spent $5.5 million and they still haven't put me away in this race, so they gotta sneak somebody in with a hidden microphone in a busy campaign event to capture something they might use."

Koster added had he said "rape issue" instead of "rape thing" there would never have been a problem.

"They're just grasping at straws trying to change the conversations about the issues our campaign has been about," Koster said.

Republicans have been beleaguered this year by comments about rape that some have deemed offensive. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, said women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."

More recently, Indiana GOP candidate Richard Mourdock has been criticized for saying that pregnancy resulting from rape is God's will.

Collin Jergens, a spokesman at the advocacy group FUSE Washington, said one of the group's activists went to the fundraiser to ask Koster about the issue of abortion. Democrats have been trying to portray Koster as out of touch with the district, which stretches from areas east of Seattle to the border with Canada, and they have focused particularly on his stance on social issues.

"I was kind of shocked by how dismissive and demeaning it was," said Aaron Ostrom of FUSE.

Sara Kiesler, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said the Koster's remarks are proof that he shouldn't be involved in a woman's decision about her pregnancy.

"My gut reaction was that rape is violence, and that rape is a crime, and that his choice of words diminishes that violence," Kiesler said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.