Policy

GOP Men Should Be 'a Little More Sensitive' to Women, Boehner Says

Insensitive remarks about women and women's issues — like those made by Akin, above, during the 2012 campaign — are what Republicans hope to avoid in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner on Thursday responded to reports that the National Republican Campaign Committee is coaching male House GOP candidates on how to steer clear of allegations of sexism in elections against female challengers.

"We're just trying to get them to be a little more sensitive," the Ohio Republican said. "You look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democratic caucus than there are in the Republican conference, and some of our members just aren't as sensitive as they ought to be."

Asked whether he thought House Republican men were making progress, Boehner replied, "I do."

Boehner's statement was another acknowledgement that his party has some work to do in recruiting more female candidates and correcting its image as insensitive to women generally.

The 2012 election cycle for Republicans was marred by controversial comments made by male Republican candidates, most famously by former Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who, while running against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said that pregnancies rarely resulted from "legitimate rape." Akin did not win his Senate bid.

The House Republican Conference has also run afoul of the 19 GOP women in the 113th Congress. Most recently, Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, chairwoman of the Republican Women's Policy Committee, stood up at a members' meeting to chide Boehner for appointing only men to a special negotiating committee convened at one point during the government shutdown.

“[Boehner] literally got up and said, ‘You know what, Renee, that was a mistake,’” Ellmers recalled. “And I believe that it was just a very innocent mistake, and I don’t think they realized how that looked. ... I believe it is not a mistake that will be made again.”

Boehner went on to select a woman — Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee — to serve on the bicameral, bipartisan budget conference committee.