Todd Akin said something stupid when he uttered the words "legitimate rape," and after at first being shunned by the Republican Party, he is being welcomed back. But there are two Missouri politicians in particular who probably shouldn't be called on to answer just how forgiving that state's political climate is because they did stuff that's a lot worse.
One of the current top experts in Akinology is Jeff Smith, who has been quoted in The New York Times, Salon, BuzzFeed, Politico, among other outlets. Smith is a funny person to tap for expertise in political rehabilitation. In one way, he is very familiar with the process. In another, he has a clear bias about how lenient the political world should be about past transgressions. The Times simply describes Smith as "a former Democratic state senator in Missouri." But the reason Smith's no longer in Missouri politics is that he was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for violating elections law in his 2004 Democratic primary campaign for Missouri's 3rd congressional district. He was recorded by a former staffer, who was wearing a wire, suggesting they pin the crime on an aide who'd committed suicide. Smith has not found his way back into Missouri politics, but he is a professor at the New School, where his faculty bio reads, "He is completing a memoir about his experience in politics, and contributes to The Recovering Politician, a new blog for former elected officials. His writing has been featured in Inc. and New York magazines, and he has been profiled in Harper’s, The New Republic, and other periodicals." From his new Manhattan perspective, he has not found New Yorkers to be very forgiving. "Your standard Romney bundler is not going to start bundling for Todd Akin," Smith told BuzzFeed on Monday. "That person would be embarrassed to bring Todd Akin to Manhattan."
As unexpected as Smith's new status as Akin rehabilitation diagnoser, even more surprising is that of Rod Jetton, who Buzzfeed described as "a former Republican speaker of the House in Missouri who works now as a political analyst." and said donors would remain wary of Akin. The reason Jetton is the former Republican speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives is that he was charged with felony assault in December 2009. The Missouri press described the incident as an S&M encounter gone wrong, but that's not what the police report sounded like, as Gawker's John Cook pointed out at the time. Jetton's accuser told police he refilled her wine glass out of sight, and that after drinking it she began to feel weak, rebuffed his advances, and blacked out. When she came to, she said he was having sex with her and she was unable to make him stop. She said when she woke up the next morning, Jetton told her she should have said a safe word, "green balloons." He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in May 2011 and paid $950 in restitution to his accuser plus $300 in court costs.
It may not be a coincidence that these two Missouri politicians are showing up in so many stories about Akin. Smith tweeted a link to the BuzzFeed story on Monday, writing, "My old pal @jedijetton and I on Repub donors and their continuing 'embarrassment' re: Akin..." Smith and Jetton been pals for a while. Here is Smith on his "unlikely friendship" with Jetton in June 2011: "I don’t know what happened on the night, years later, when Rod visited the home of a ladyfriend, a rendezvous that led to his political demise. I do know that it will haunt him for a long time. I also know that he is a better person today because of that night."
That could be true. Still, if Missouri donors want to pick a politician to be "embarrassed" by, between the guy who said "legitimate rape" and the guy who pled guilty to hitting and choking a woman, it's not much of a contest.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.