As one of the foremost experts in the country on Sean Hannity’s recent pronouncements on the Todd Akin scandal, I’ve heard enough of his whining about the media’s “double standard” on the controversy. Though Hannity has hit many, many good notes in the past two days, he whiffs when he draws parallels between the treatment recently accorded to Vice President Biden vs. that accorded to Akin. Last night on his eponymous show, Hannity railed: “I hate the double standard . . . because based on this standard, Biden should be out.”
That’s a reference to Biden’s infamous comment in Virginia, when he told a racially mixed audience that Mitt Romney’s policies on financial regulation will “put y’all back in chains.”
For the sake of comparison, Akin told an interviewer the following:
People always want to try and make that as one of those things, well, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should to be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not on attacking the child.
In asserting a double standard, Hannity is saying that both of these offenses are equivalent, yet the backlash, in his view, hasn’t been equivalent: People are looking to force Akin from his Senate race, while Biden seems to have weathered the crisis. A look at the cases for equivalence and against equivalence:
The case for equivalence: In both instances, a politician said something dumb and offensive.
The case against equivalence: Biden was making a rhetorical point, trying to put an exclamation point on a populist attack on the opposition. He made a stupid word choice, one for which his history of gaffing offers no defense or mitigation whatsoever.
Akin, on the other hand, was not punctuating a rhetorical flourish. He was discussing in calm tones a matter of public policy. In doing so, he made claims that were phenomenally at odds with science — both the claim that pregnancies resulting from rape were “really rare” as well as the claim that the female body has some Wonder Woman-like capacity to shut down conception in the event of rape. These irresponsible misimpressions of reproductive science are closely connected to Akin’s policy prescriptions on abortion.
Hannity may want to look again at his case for a double standard. Surely there has to be a better point of comparison than the Biden-chains episode.