Akin cancels CNN interview, leaving Piers Morgan with an empty chair

Dylan Stableford
The Ticket

Facing a firestorm of criticism over his comments about "legitimate rape," Missouri Rep. Todd Akin canceled a scheduled interview with CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday. And in what's becoming something of a trend on cable news, Morgan opened his primetime show with a shot of Akin's empty chair, calling the embattled Republican Senate candidate a "gutless little twerp" for cancelling the sit-down.

"Congressman, you have an open invitation to join me in that chair whenever you feel up to it," Morgan said. "Because if you don't keep your promise to appear on the show, then you are, what we would call in Britain, a gutless little twerp."

The stunt was almost immediately parodied on Twitter, as the @AkinEmptyChair account was created within minutes of the broadcast.

[Related: Will Todd Akin drop out of Senate race?]

It's not the first time a Republican politician has dodged Morgan. Delaware Republican Christine O'Donnell walked out of a 2011 interview with Morgan after he asked about her views on gay marriage. O'Donnell later called Morgan's line of questioning "borderline creepy."

It's also not the first time the empty interview chair has been used on cable news for dramatic effect. In March, Lawrence O'Donnell (no relation to Christine) grilled an empty chair on MSNBC's "Last Word" when a lawyer for accused Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman abruptly canceled an appearance.

The same week, MSNBC producers went with the empty-chair shot when it appeared that the National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher failed to show up for a daytime news segment.

It turned out that Gallagher was sent to the wrong studio by MSNBC's own booking department; anchor Thomas Roberts later apologized.

[Also read: Obama on Akin: 'Rape is rape']

Earlier Monday, Buzzfeed reported that Akin was planning to withdraw his Senate candidacy on Tuesday. A senior Republican official cautioned that Akin may still change his mind, however, and Smith cited another source who throws cold water on the speculation. Meanwhile, conservative blogger Erick Erickson and former Mitt Romney foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell both wrote on Twitter that Akin would resign.

In an interview on Mike Huckabee's radio show, Akin apologized for comments he made on Sunday, when he said that victims of "legitimate rape" do not need access to legal abortions because they cannot biologically become pregnant.

But Akin also told Huckabee he wouldn't drop out of the race. "I'm not a quitter," he said.