President Obama, in a surprise visit to the White House Briefing Room Monday, condemned remarks about rape by a Republican Senate candidate that reshaped a crucial election in Missouri.
"The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape," Obama said during his first press conference in two months.
Rep. Todd Akin, a U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri, on Sunday was explaining his opposition to abortion when he claimed that it's rare for a rape victim to become pregnant because a woman's body shuts down the reproductive process during "legitimate rape."
Akin, who was running competitively against Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill until now, apologized for his remarks Monday. But many Republicans, including presidential contender Mitt Romney, were already denouncing Akin's statement and distancing themselves from him.
Obama and Democrats, meanwhile, continued to use Akin's comment to hammer away at all Republicans as hostile to women.
"The idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people.," Obama said. "What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making decisions on behalf of women."
In addition to joining the latest fight over abortion, Obama on Monday reiterated his call for Romney to release more tax returns, calling it "pretty standard stuff" for a presidential candidate. Romney released only his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 taxes, but Obama said it wasn't enough. "Any single year might not tell you the whole story," he said.
Democrats charge that Romney's refusal to release additional returns is evidence that he's hiding something from voters. They also claimed that Romney hasn't paid any taxes for a decade, a charge Romney has denied. Romney said last week that he has paid at least 13 percent in income taxes over the last 10 years.
The president also rebuked critics who claim that he's running a negative campaign with ads that are "out of bounds." A super PAC supporting Obama ran an ad linking Romney to a woman's cancer death, an ad Obama has not denounced.
"I don't think that Gov. Romney is responsible for the death of the woman portrayed in that ad," Obama said but added that he wasn't responsible for the content of ads run by outside groups -- even one led by former White House aides.
Republicans are also running ads that distort the truth about his own record, Obama said.
"You've got Gov. Romney creating as a centerpiece of his campaign the notion that we're taking the work requirement out of welfare," he said. Fact-checking groups have called the ad's claims misleading.