Criticize ignorance and dishonesty in the Republican party
On Thursday, according to a Feb. 26 Huffington Post article, Rep. Pete Nielsen (R) of the Idaho state legislature attended a state House committee hearing regarding new abortion legislation and decided to give his two cents: “Now, I’m of the understanding that in many cases of rape, it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident.”
Apparently, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson isn’t the only prominent doctor-turned-politician in the GOP anymore; Nielsen seems to consider himself a medical professional — an obstetrician-gynecologist to be more precise — even though he has no medical degree. At some point between his bid for a seat in the state House and his statement on Thursday, Nielsen must have attended medical school. Otherwise, he would have absolutely no business making such a claim.
Now, this all feels too eerily familiar. In some time-traveling twist of fate, America must have reverted back four years because, surely, no one could make the same error as former U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-Mo.) did in 2012. Could yet another Republican legislator make the same ludicrous, insulting and impossibly false claim about rape?
Akin, if you’ll recall, used his own imaginary medical degree to inform his opinion about pregnancy when, in an August 2012 interview, he told KTVI-TV, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
To make the situation perfectly clear — since apparently Nielsen didn’t get the memo in 2012 — such claims have absolutely no fact or scientific merit backing them. An Aug. 20, 2012 Scientific American article examines the science in depth and reports that “rape and consensual sex have the same pregnancy rate.”
Nielsen’s similarities to Akin don’t end at a lack of medical degree, lack of sensitivity to sexual assault survivors or lack of basic common sense; like Akin, rather than apologizing for or attempting to retract his statement, Nielsen stood by what he said. In fact, he dug himself deeper. According to the same Huffington Post article, when questioned about his statement, Nielsen asserted, “That’s information that I’ve had through the years. Whether it’s totally accurate or not, I don’t know. … I read a lot of information. I have read it several times. … Being a father of five girls, I’ve explored this a lot.”
Whether or not Nielsen intended this to serve as defense for his first statement remains to be seen — because it almost seems as if he is trying to undermine himself. Here he admits to propagating a view of which he himself questioned the accuracy. All this second statement does is show the longevity of his woeful ignorance and introduce a confusing, tangential connection to his daughters.
While Akin’s and Nielsen’s statements could simply be an indictment of sex education in Missouri and Idaho, Nielsen’s confession that he didn’t know whether his own statement was true could reflect a disturbing trend in the GOP: When they lack real evidence for their stance, many Republicans choose to fabricate their own evidence.
In Nielsen’s case, his statement served as an attempt to prop up new abortion legislation that lacks exceptions for sexual assault.
And Republican presidential candidates reflect this trend, too. Ben Carson, for example, claimed in November 2015 that raising the minimum wage invariably increases unemployment. This statement, made as an attempt to support his stance on the minimum wage, lacked fact, as raising minimum wage correlated with reduced unemployment rates almost as often as increased unemployment rates, according to a Nov. 10, 2015 Politifact article.
In a slanderous attack on Hillary Clinton during the GOP primary debate in New Hampshire, Marco Rubio claimed that Clinton supports due-date abortions, but according to a Feb. 10 Politifact article, Clinton has only voiced support for third-trimester abortions when the mother’s life is at risk — but over the course of 15 years, she has never said anything endorsing due-date abortions.
Ted Cruz, for his part, sought to tear down opponents by speaking falsely about their healthcare stances. On Jan 31, he claimed that Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders “have the identical position on health care, which is they want to put the government in charge of you and your doctor,” but all three candidates he mentioned have separate plans for healthcare, according to a Jan. 31 Politifact article.
Worst of all, of course, is Republican front-runner Donald Trump with falsehoods too numerous to mention. During the Houston GOP debate, for instance, Trump claimed that he had never discussed Libya despite Cruz’s claims otherwise — but in this case, Cruz actually spoke honestly. A Feb. 25 Politifact article reports that Trump discussed Libya at length in a 2011 video blog. The lies don’t end there. Perhaps the most prominent example of Trump’s dishonesty would be his attempt to incite fear with his infamous claim that he observed in Jersey City, N.J., that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Politifact debunked this claim too.
While all politicians lie, GOP leaders do so with significantly higher frequency: Regarding all fact-checked statements from 2007 to 2015, Carson, Rubio, Cruz and Trump had dishonesty rates of 84, 40, 66 and 76 percent, respectively, compared to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’s tie of 28 percent, according to a Dec. 11, 2015 New York Times article by political fact-checker Angie Drobnic Holan.
As such, Nielsen’s statement on Thursday reveals more than his staggering ignorance and insensitivity. If examined in conjunction with statements by other Republicans, Nielsen’s claim reflects a troubling lack of honesty and factual support within the GOP.