Republican Rep. Christopher Shays, in a dead-heat race for re-election in Connecticut's 4th District, was furiously backpedaling Friday from his characterization of prisoner abuses at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison as a "sex ring," not torture.
In a debate Wednesday at a Bridgeport synagogue, Shays, a nine-term incumbent facing the toughest election of his career, said he'd seen what U.S. forces had done at Abu Ghraib. "It was an outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from Maryland who were involved in a sex ring," he said. "They took pictures of soldiers who were naked and they did other things that were just outrageous."
"But it wasn't torture." By Friday, Shays had changed his tune: "It was torture because sex abuse is torture," he told the Associated Press, adding, however, "This is more about pornography than torture."
In an interview Thursday with U.S. News, Shays's Democratic challenger, Diane Farrell, said she didn't realize at the time that Shays, an eight-term incumbent, was denying that torture occurred. Her staff later released a transcript of Shays's comments. A video of Shays's debate commments on Abu Ghraib was posted by Friday on the free online video site YouTube.
Voters, no doubt, can expect to hear more about this in the coming week as the candidates move into the second half of their 15-day, 11-debate marathon. The next face-off of the remaining seven will be Sunday.