January 18, 2013 — Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday urged GOP lawmakers to stop using the word "rape" in their offices or campaigns, following a slew of controversial comments made by party leaders regarding rape, Politico reports (Sherman/Bresnahan, Politico, 1/17).
According to one of the presentation's attendees, Conway said, "Rape is a four letter word -- don't say it."
She made the remarks as part of the House Republicans' annual retreat. This year's event focused on the party's branding, as well as efforts to initiate "successful communications with minorities and women" (Helderman/O'Keefe, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 1/17). Conway was joined by fellow GOP pollsters Dave Sackett and David Winston. Winston also is an adviser to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Several GOP congressional candidates generated controversy by making remarks about rape during the 2012 campaign (Politico, 1/17). More recently, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said that comments about rape made by former Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) and failed Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock (R) were misinterpreted by the media and voters. Gingrey later distanced himself from the remarks, saying that his "position was misconstrued" and clarifying that he does not support or defend remarks made by either GOP candidate (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14).
Conservative Women's Panel Discusses GOP Gender Gap
In related news, the conservative Independent Women's Forum convened a panel of four female speakers Wednesday night to discuss how the Republican Party can attract women voters.
Panel moderator Christina Hoff Sommers, an author and American Enterprise Institute fellow, said, "We have some problematic allies. Conservative leaders and funders, they don't take women's issues seriously." She added, "I'm not sure what's worse: conservatives ignoring women's issues, or conservatives addressing them."
Panel members briefly outlined suggestions for how Republicans could better address women's issues, including efforts to increase the visibility of women in GOP leadership and investing in research and scholarship that would help attract women voters. Panelist Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of IWF, said, "I think we need to take a new tact (sic) when we're talking about a lot of the issues."
The panelists also agreed that contraception is a settled issue. Schaeffer argued that energy costs, not contraception, was a big women's issue in 2012 and that Republicans missed an opportunity by not connecting with women on that point. Conservative blogger Mollie Hemingway urged Republicans to respond to the contraception debate with their own accusations that are "just as crazy" as what Democrats have said (Levy, Talking Points Memo, 1/17).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership