This week isn't the first time Todd Akin has had to answer questions about his relationship with Tim Dreste, one of the country's most infamous anti-abortion activists of the 1990s. But with election day just two weeks away, a national media that's always achin' for some Akin and news that Akin was arrested not just once (as he had previously disclosed) but four times in the 1980s for participating in anti-abortion protests, Akin is receiving some high-profile scrutiny this time around.
Salon's Alex Seiz-Wald published a lengthy piece yesterday about Akin's alleged ties to extremist militia and pro-life groups led by Dreste. Seiz-Wald asserts that Akin was arrested with Dreste's group Pro-Life Direct Action and other anti-abortion organizations that used highly intimidating, sometimes violent, tactics to prevent women from getting abortions.
So who is this Tim Dreste guy Salon and other media outlets are so upset about?
The Riverfront Times profiled the man many consider to be some mix of "domestic terrorist, religious fanatic, paramilitary right-wing nut" in 1999, following his federal conviction for co-conspiring to kill, assault or do bodily harm to physicians who provide abortions.
Yesterday, Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald published a lengthy piece called "Todd Akin's Militia Ties Exposed"We reached Dreste by phone last night, but he said he was unaware of the articles that tie him to Akin and didn't want to comment. Dreste has been prohibited from distributing pro-life literature, fined $6 million by federal court and scorned by the "mainstream" pro-life movement -- moves that have effectively silenced him in the last decade.
But RFT's Melinda Roth uncovered some pretty chilling anti-abortion tactics Dreste innovated and personally practiced back in the 1980s and 1990s, when Akin was still running in his circles:
"They used tactics like, when a patient was walking toward the clinic out on the sidewalk, they would get right in her face, and your tendency when somebody does that is to reach out and try to push them back. At that point, the protesters would call the police and file assault charges (against the woman), so that the patient would be sitting there in this very busy clinic and be dragged out by the police. Any little harassment thing like that, they would do."
Image via Still at it: This sign was hung on a post outside the Planned Parenthood building in Central West End in 2008.
At a rally in O'Fallon last year Akin told the crowd that he had been arrested with other protesters outside a clinic 25 years earlier. "Don't tell anybody I'm a jail bird," he joked. He also said he reunited the evening before with "a group of people who had been in jail with me" who were all "involved in the pro-life movement." Sounds like a sketchy -- but not altogether surprising -- gathering. Salon speculates that Dreste was arrested in the same batch as Akin, and also accuses the Senate candidate of being a little too friendly with Dreste's militia groups well into the 1990s.
As Obama's questionable ties to lefty radicals only seemed to incite and outrage the FOX News set, we predict revelations about Akin's connections to these anti-abortion groups won't change many votes. Unless you've been living under a rock here, it should come as no surprise that this guy hates abortion with astonishing fervor.
A week after RFT's feature came out, Dreste foreshadowed Akin's bullheaded commitment to a post no one wanted him in anymore. The Beacon's political reporter Jo Mannies -- then writing for the Post-Dispatch -- wrote that Dreste refused to resign from a state GOP committee he sat on, even as Republicans all around him called on him to step down. Sound familiar?
Three months after the Missouri GOP first called for his resignation from a party post, anti-abortion activist Tim Dreste says he's staying put.
That's embarrassing state Republican leaders and rankling abortion-rights supporters, who on Wednesday distributed leaflets in downtown Clayton that called on the GOP to take action. Copies were delivered to the Clayton office for the state's two top Republicans, Sens. Christopher S. Bond and John Ashcroft.
Later Wednesday, both senators issued a statement renewing the party's call for Dreste to quit. He reaffirmed that he won't.
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