By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau –
President Barack Obama told Jay Leno Wednesday night that Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments about pregnancy and rape illustrate why men alone should not be making decisions about women’s issues.
“Rape is rape. It is a crime,” Obama told the “Tonight Show” host in an interview that was set to air Wednesday evening, according to an account from a pool reporter traveling with the president. “These various distinctions about rape don’t make too much sense to me.”
Mourdock, a “tea party” Republican who defeated incumbent Sen. Richard G. Lugar in the primary this year, is in a tight race that could help decide control of the Senate.
On Tuesday night, Mourdock said during a debate with his opponent, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, that if a pregnancy results from rape it is “something that God intended to happen.” That set off a new firestorm in a campaign year in which both presidential candidates are courting the women’s vote.
Romney has appeared in an ad supporting Mourdock’s candidacy. Obama’s campaign has called on the former Massachusetts governor to repudiate Mourdock’s remarks. A Romney spokeswoman has said the candidate disagrees with Mourdock, but Romney himself has not addressed the issue.
Also in the “Tonight Show” interview, Obama made light of Donald Trump’s much-hyped offer to donate $5 million to charity if the president released his passport application and college records. The real estate mogul also has championed the “birther” movement, contending that Obama cannot be president because he was born in Kenya. Actually, the president was born in Hawaii.
On Leno, Obama joked that Trump’s beef dates back to when he and Trump grew up together in Kenya.
“We had constant run-ins on the soccer field,” Obama said. “He wasn’t very good and resented it. When we finally moved to America, I thought it would be over.”
Obama made time to come to Los Angeles to chat with Leno during a marathon tour of battleground states that began in Florida after the final presidential debate on Monday. In addition to campaigning, he’s maximizing his free media exposure with the Leno interview, another with NBC’s Brian Williams, and a half-hour MTV special Friday. First lady Michelle Obama will appear on the “Jimmy Kimmel” show on Thursday.
In response to a question from Leno’s audience, Obama joked that trick-or-treaters who come to the White House next week can expect candy, but children from the key swing state of Ohio can expect extra large Hershey bars.