Update: Smith explained his comments further in an interview with the York Daily Record Editorial Board (below).
Harrisburg — Republican Tom Smith spoke at the Pennsylvania press club luncheon Monday afternoon The defining moment occurred a few moments after the formal program when, asked about abortion amid a group of reporters, Smith seemed to suggest that having a child out of wedlock was analogous to rape.
Smith, a former coal company owner from Armstrong County who is challenging freshman Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, immediately tried to backtrack his comments.
You can listen to the exchange here, and the following is PoliticsPA’s transcript:
Robert Vickers, Patriot News: In light of Congressman Akin’s comments, is there any situation that you think a woman should have access to an abortion?
Tom Smith: My stance is on record and it’s very simplistic: I’m pro-life, period. And what that Congressman said, I do not agree with at all. He should have never said anything like that.
Vickers: So in cases of incest or rape…
Laura Olson, Post-Gazette: No exceptions?
Smith: No exceptions.
Mark Scolforo, Associated Press: How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will? Do you have a way to explain that?
Smith: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But, fortunately for me, I didn’t have to.. she chose they way I thought. No don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t rape.
Scolforo: Similar how?
Smith: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.
Scolforo: That’s similar to rape?
Smith: No, no, no, but… put yourself in a father’s situation, yes. It is similar. But, back to the original, I’m pro-life, period.
[Another question on an unrelated topic]
John Micek, Morning Call: Mr. Smith, can I ask you to clarify one more time the question that Mark asked you. Did I just hear you say that having a child out of wedlock is analogous to rape?
Smith: No, I did not say that.
Scolforo: You did say that.
Micek: But you did say it, sir.
(Noise as a Smith campaign aide sought to answer, but Scolforo insisted Smith answer).
Scolforo: But you did say that.
Smith: I said I went through a situation.
Scolforo: With your daughter, with a daughter.
Smith: And it’s very, very difficult. But do I condone rape? Absolutely not. Do I propose life? Yes I do. I’m pro-life, period.
Scolforo: So what’s the similarity between those two, in other words? Just that there’s a decision involved?
Smith: (Pause.) A life is a life, and it needs protected. Who’s going to protect it? We have to. I mean that’s, I believe life begins at conception. I’m not going to argue about the method of conception. It’s a life, and I’m pro-life. It’s that simple.
Two Democratic party trackers scurried from the room with a video camera and broad smiles, as Smith and campaign aides sought to temper the impact of their candidate’s words.
The exchange comes just a few days after Missouri Congressman and former top tier Senate hopeful Todd Akin essentially forfeited his campaign when he inaccurately asserted that women are physiologically protected from conceiving a child as a result of sexual assault.
Update 2: Smith’s Communications Director Megan Piwowar issued the following statement Monday night:
“Tom Smith is committed to protecting the sanctity of life and believes it begins at conception. While his answers to some of the questions he faced at the Pennsylvania Press club may have been less than artful, at no time did he draw the comparison that some have inferred. When questioned if he was drawing that comparison, Tom’s answer was clear, ‘no, no, no.’ Tom was speaking to the difficult decision faced by his family, not the nature of his daughters conception.”
Update 1: Here is Smith’s discussion with the YDR Ed Board. The relevant section is right up front: