ST. LOUIS • In what looks like another gender-related gaffe from Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's campaign, a website purporting to show his female supporters pictures a Democratic Party operative who was only there to monitor his activities.
The Akin campaign page at Akin.org/women—which was online this morning but has since been taken down—appeared designed to blunt the effects of Akin's bombshell comments last month on “legitimate” rape and pregnancy, which drew national outrage and rocked his campaign to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
The site displayed a large photo showing Akin standing with his wife and two other women. The headline over it read: “I'm a women[SIC], and I support Todd.”
The problem is, one of the women in the photo doesn't—and the campaign apparently knew it.
Corinne Matti, who is pictured on Akin's site standing to Akin's left, is a “tracker” for the Missouri Democratic Party. Her job, which she does openly, is to attend Akin's public events and report back to the Democrats. She has been doing it for more than a year.
“I suspect they were so desperate to find women that they had to borrow one of ours,” quipped McCaskill spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki.
Akin spokesman Ryan Hite said in an emailed statement that the page wasn't intended to go public when it did. "This page is simply a draft version that was not approved for public release. Photos and other design features are just tests to view page sizes and changes, not the final photos to be used," Hite wrote.
Sending operatives to the events of political opponents is common practice in campaigns. Matti said in an interview today that Akin's people knew who she was and why she was there. She said she believes the picture was taken at a parade in Liberty, Mo., last September.
Matti, 27, of St. Louis, is a full-time employee of the Missouri Democratic Party. She said that while Akin was having his photo taken with participants, Akin's wife Lulli insisted Matti join in. The resulting photo shows Lulli Akin with her arm around Matti, with Todd Akin on her other side.
Akin last month created a national firestorm when he said in a St. Louis television interview that victims of “legitimate” rape seldom get pregnant. He offered the medically unsupported claim to back up his opposition to abortion rights even in cases of rape.
Akin later rescinded and apologized for the remarks, but that hasn't stopped national GOP figures including presidential nominee Mitt Romney from pressing him to step down from the ballot so a replacement can be appointed to run against McCaskill.
That pressure later prompted Lulli Akin to compare the party's treatment of her husband to “rape.”