A video released by the McCaskill campaign Friday captures Rep. Todd Akin, whose inaccurate comments about "legitimate rape" created a firestorm last month, explaining why he thinks businesses should be allowed to pay women less than men. When a man asked him why he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (a law that makes it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination), Akin said he opposed the idea that "government should be telling people what you pay and what you don't pay." Here's how it went down:
Audience member: You voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Why do you think it is okay for a woman to be paid less for doing the same work as a man?
Akin: Well, first of all, the premise of your question is that I'm making that particular distinction. I believe in free enterprise. I don't think the government should be telling people what you pay and what you don't pay. I think it's about freedom. If someone wants to hire somebody and they agree on a salary, that's fine, however it wants to work. So, the government sticking its nose into all kinds of things has gotten us into huge trouble.
Keep in mind that gender discrimination in compensation has been illegal since Congress passed the 1963 Equal Pay Act. This latest stunner echoes Sen. Rand Paul's 2010 oblique admission that he opposed part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that outlawed racial segregation. He gave the same reason in the name of "freedom"—that he didn't like the idea of government meddling in private businesses, even if the alternative is blatant discrimination.
Akin may have stated it boldly, but opposing the Lilly Ledbetter Act isn't a radical position; thirty-six senators and 171 House representatives voted against the bill in 2009, split almost precisely along party lines. Perhaps this is why McCaskill is still trailing Akin by one percentage point in recent polls, despite his seemingly unending streak of anti-women comments. Sadly, prioritizing a vague idea of "freedom" above equal rights doesn't seem to faze voters as much as we may hope.