By Meghashyam Mali - 08/22/12 11:15 AM EDT
Embattled Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) on Wednesday blasted GOP leaders for pressuring him to exit the Missouri Senate race, revealing that he rebuffed a call from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) but declining to close the door on ending his candidacy in the future.
In an interview with NBC's "Today" show, Akin said he had been personally urged to end his candidacy by the GOP vice presidential nominee.
“Paul Ryan did give me a call and he felt that I had to make a decision and he advised me that it would be good for me to step down," said Akin.
On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Akin said he had won the GOP primary in the state and Republicans needed to respect the decisions of Missouri voters.
“We’ve given this a lot of thought, and that is the fact that over more than a year period of time a number of us ran in this Republican primary, each of us have our own messages, I was outspent by a large amount in terms of media,” said Akin. “And yet by standing on principle and putting politics aside and talking about the foundations of this country, the people of Missouri chose me to be their candidate.
"I don’t believe it’s right for party bosses to decide to override those voters,” he added.
Asked by ABC host George Stephanopoulos if he had ruled out ever leaving the race, Akin declined to shut the door on withdrawing his candidacy in the future.
“I’m never going to say everything that can possibly happen — I don’t know the future,” said Akin, adding that “it makes me uncomfortable to think that party bosses are going to dictate who runs, as opposed to the election process.”
Pressed again on whether he could see himself exiting in the future, Akin said he had “made the decision to stay in because I believe we can win this race.”
“I’m planning to win it,” he added.
Akin has faced pressure from much of the GOP leadership, including Mitt Romney, to leave the Missouri Senate race after he made comments saying that in cases of “legitimate rape,” female bodies could prevent pregnancies.
Akin apologized for those remarks but has refused to stand down, allowing a Tuesday deadline for him to leave the race without any penalties to pass. Akin will now need to file a court order to have his name removed from the ballot.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also called on Akin to exit and said the candidate would not be welcome at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.
Akin said Wednesday he would not attend.
“I honor their particular wishes; my objective here is to show the sharp contrasts between me and my Democratic opponent,” Akin said, hammering Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) as a backer of “ObamaCare.”
In his interview, Akin again apologized for his comments, saying that “the word ‘legitimate’ doesn’t ever have a good reason to be standing next to ‘rape.’ There is no rape that is legitimate and I understand that rape is a terrible and a tragic and a violent crime and that’s why I’ve apologized for using that word, ‘legitimate.’
“But I’m not apologizing for the fact that I’m pro-life,” he added. “I believe it’s important to defend the interests of the unborn.”
Asked if he believed his statement minus the world “legitimate” was still true, Akin said he was “medically wrong. I understand that pregnancy can result from rape.
“At the same time, I don’t apologize for the fact that I’m consistently pro-life.”