Sen. Dean Heller distanced himself Wednesday from the latest rape and pregnancy controversy tied to a fellow Republican Senate candidate.
“Dean Heller disagrees. He does not share these views," his campaign spokeswoman Chandler Smith said in response to the storm set off by Richard Mourdock of Indiana in a Tuesday debate.
Answering a question on abortion, Mourdock said he "stands for life. I believe life begins at conception." He said the only instance he would accept abortion is when the life of the mother is endangered.
"I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Democrats immediately pounced on the remark, charging Mourdock essentially was saying pregnancies from rape were in God’s plan.
Mourdock convened a press conference today in which he said his remarks were misinterpreted and had been "twisted."
“I said life is precious. I believe life is precious. I believe rape is a brutal act. It is something that I abhor. That anyone could come away with any meaning other than what I just said is regrettable, and for that I apologize,” he said, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Mitt Romney, who had cut a commercial for Mourdock in his race against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, said through his presidential campaign that Mourdock’s comment does not reflect his view. GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire canceled a campaign visit to Indiana.
But the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the group that funds and advises GOP Senate candidates, was standing by Mourdock, said its chairman, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
“Richard and I, along with millions of Americans — including even Joe Donnelly — believe that life is a gift from God,” Cornyn said in a statement Wednesday. “To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous.
Democrats in Nevada sought to tie Heller to Mourdock, taking the opening to renew charges that the Republican senator has an "anti-woman agenda." Heller has disputed those characterizations.
Mourdock’s stumble presented Republicans with a painful deja vu, coming two months after their Senate candidate in Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin. told an interviewer that women who are raped could prevent becoming pregnant.
National Republican leaders pulled away from Akin and tried to persuade him to quit the race, but he refused and has since become an underdog to incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.