Mike Huckabee took part in a conference call with hundreds of Baptist pastors to seek support for Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who came under fire after his "legitimate rape" remarks.
CNN reports that a source in the GOP provided it with the dial-in information for the call, made on Friday night in defense of Rep. Akin, who allegedly is facing pressure from Washington Republicans to drop his Senate bid against Democrat Claire McCaskill.
However, Huckabee Saturday said media misquoted him as saying that he spoke directly with officials of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and was told they would stop pressuring Akin's consultants and campaign vendors to drop the congressman as a client.
"I have not had any direct contact with leaders or staff from the NRSC," Huckabee said in a statement. "This is an attempt to create a story. My comments this week on my own forums of radio and to the people who choose to receive communications from me are first hand and accurately reflect what I said. I hardly need third-party news outlets who 'heard' things to report on that which simply didn't happen."
The statement came after the NRSC responded to Huckabee's accusation. "We have a great deal of respect for Gov. Huckabee and regret that we do not see eye to eye with him on this race," NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh said. "It's important to set the record straight, though, that the types of tactics he describes simply did not happen – and further, no one at the NRSC has even spoken with the governor this week."
Huckabee spoke from his Fox News office in New York and the conference call he joined in was convened by Don Hinkle, the editor of The Pathway, the Missouri Baptist Convention's publication. Texas Pastor David Barton, former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, David Baker, pastor of First Baptist of Church in Belton, Mo., and John Yeats, the executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, were among those who spoke on the call.
Huckabee compared the NRSC to "union goons" who "kneecap" their enemies, according to CNN. He was quoted as saying that party leaders were "opening up rounds and rounds" of ammunition on Akin and "then running over with tanks and trucks and leaving him to be ravaged by the other side." "This is unprecedented, to see to this orchestrated attempt to humiliate and devastate a fellow Republican," he said.
Akin, who was in St. Louis, Mo., on Friday, said he was not quitting the race.
Huckabee said Republican leaders' actions could "discourage" Christian conservatives and activists from supporting the GOP in November. Encouraging pastors to back Akin, Huckabee said, "The poll numbers need to come back up. Todd needs to show that he can raise money and be competitive. That will be a game changer. If not, the pressure will still be there for Todd to exit the race and clear the field for somebody else."
Politico quoted Yeats as telling the group, "One of the things we have to remind ourselves of and remind our people of is that Congressman Akin represents the mainstream of our values. He is the mainstream of our values."
Pastor Baker was quoted as saying, "We have a responsibility as prophets to speak out. One thing I know about Missouri Baptists is that we don't like to be told what to do."
"I would remind our pastor friends … over the last 10, 12 years the homosexual lobby is more powerful than they've ever been in Washington. Planned Parenthood is more powerful than they've ever been. Our children's innocence is more threatened," Watts was quoted as telling the group. "Todd Akin has been just totally with the family, totally stood for godly principles. He and his wife are just a delight to be around. … Todd Akin has not been the problem. He has been the solution."
Romney's campaign criticized Akin after he recently said that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies in "a legitimate rape" and that conception is rare in such cases. The congressman later said he "misspoke."