OLYMPIA — U.S. Senate candidate Mike Baumgartner said Wednesday he never apologized to a Seattle reporter for suggesting the reporter “(bleep)” himself, even though his campaign released a statement Tuesday quoting the Spokane Republican doing just that.
“It went out before I'd seen it,” Baumgartner said of the press release that contains a direct quote of him offering an apology to Josh Feit of PubliCola. Later that day, Baumgartner told a Seattle television station he wasn't apologizing.
Campaign staffers said there was an “internal glitch” in communication in preparing the press release.
In a phone interview with The Spokesman-Review, Baumgartner attempted to clarify the on-again, off-again apology to Feit over an e-mail the candidate sent the reporter on Monday night after a question-and-answer item appeared on the Seattle-based blog.
The item was an expansion of Baumgartner's position on abortion for rape victims, coming on the heels of a Missouri Senate candidate's comments over the weekend that women rarely get pregnant from a “legitimate rape.” Baumgartner called U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's comments ignorant and inexcusable, as he had in an earlier press release issued that day. The blog item noted that Baumgartner also opposes abortion in cases of rape. He said he believes rape victims should be treated with compassion and empathy, but that life begins at conception so he opposes abortion on those grounds. Extremists on the abortion rights side of the debate are not questioned about their positions on late term abortions or blocking parental notification, he added.
The article went on to quote Baumgartner as saying his campaign isn't about the culture wars but about jobs and ending the war in Afghanistan. That tracked with comment in the campaign's press release on the Akin comment, that he wished everyone would “call a truce in the culture wars and get back to finding real solutions needed to balance our budget and create real job growth.”
Late Monday, Baumgartner sent Feit an e-mail with a picture of him standing next to a Navy SEAL who had recently been killed in Afghanistan. He suggested Feit “take a good look and then go (bleep) yourself”, using an all-too-common Anglo-Saxon word.
Baumgartner said he considered the e-mail personal and a followup to an ongoing personal discussion he'd had with Feit about Afghanistan. Feit wrote that's not the case, that the Afghan war comments came during an on-the-record conversation about the Akin situation, which was “the news of the day.”
By late Tuesday afternoon, the Baumgartner campaign was clearly scrambling to put out an official response to the back and forth. His spokeswoman sent out a press release quoting Baumgartner as apologizing to Feit. It also said he believed the news media don't want to talk about the men and women being killed in Afghanistan and Cantwell's stance on the war.
Baumgartner later told KIRO-TV on camera that he wasn't apologizing, and that Feit had it coming.
Spokeswoman Jami Herring said Wednesday the campaign discussed a range of responses that included an apology for the strong language. Asked if Baumgartner saw the press release with a direct quote from him before it went out, she replied “We thought he had, apparently he did not. We got the quote wrong.”
Herring and Campaign manager Dan Bisbee called the press release “an internal glitch.”
In an interview Wednesday, Baumgartner repeated his contention that the news media isn't spending enough time holding members of Congress from both parties responsible for backing poor strategy on the war in Afghanistan. He believes the initial decision to invade Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was correct, but more recent expansions of the war are the wrong strategy and the United States should withdraw troops from the country as soon as possible.