The other day I was on KCRW’s “To The Point,” hosted by Warren Olney. One of my fellow guests was Alex Roarty, who is Hotline’s chief political correspondent. Toward the end of the show, Olney asked him a question:
OLNEY: Is the issue of cultural insensitivity, which is sort of behind all of this–broader than the argument over gay rights or same-sex marriage–is that going to be a major issue for the Republicans? Are they going to have to seem to be culturally sensitive in order to win the presidency?
ROARTY: Yes. And some people would say that it’s actually their biggest hurdle to winning the White House. It’s not just gay marriage. You can include gun rights, you can include abortion rights, there is this sense that Republicans are out of the step with the mainstream of America when it comes to a lot of social and cultural issues. And that’s the Democrats’ biggest advantage at this point. I will point out Democrats tried to use that to their advantage in 2014 midterms and it didn’t work out so well for them then, so it’s unclear if those kind of issues, as important as they might be to some people, are still more important than things like foreign policy or the economy.
I don’t mean to pick on Roarty. Indeed, his claim is identical to those I’ve seen and heard reporters make for years. It’s just that his is the most recent example.
It’s an absolutely stunning claim. Stunning. Let’s set aside same-sex marriage, which the media are just completely incapable of covering with even a semblance of fairness or awareness of how people outside their newsrooms think about it. And let’s set aside the curious assumption that if these issues hurt Democrats in 2014, it’s not because of voters’ response to those issues but something about “foreign policy or the economy.”
Can we think of a single instance where Republican defense of 2nd Amendment rights did anything other than help them win elections? I mean, I know a few people in Colorado, including the president of the state senate, who were recalled for passing restrictions on gun rights in 2013. Recalled. In Colorado. I’m from Colorado. We’re not a recalling people. It was the first time in our state history any of our legislators had done anything to anger us sufficiently.
There was President Obama’s attempt, with much assistance from the media, to pass restrictions on gun rights in 2013 in the aftermath of the horrific Sandy Hook slaughter. That attempt “suffered a resounding defeat Wednesday, when every major proposal he championed fell apart on the Senate floor.”
And as for public opinion? Well, beyond elections we have a recent Gallup poll showing 38 percent of Americans supporting gun laws as they are and 14 percent wanting them liberalized. I know math is hard, but I think that when a majority of Americans say they don’t support any more restrictions on gun rights, the mainstream might not be where the media think it is. Pew also reports that more Americans support gun rights than restrictions on same.
Likewise, let’s look at how actual Americans outside of newsrooms report their views on abortion. Given the media coverage I’ve closely looked at for decades, I have no doubt whatsoever that the “mainstream” in newsrooms on abortion is somewhere far to the left of Planned Parenthood chair Cecile Richards. But actual Americans turn out not to be quite where the most strident supporters of abortion are.
Did you know that 71 percent of Americans support at least some protections for unborn children? That 71 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, support at least some restrictions on abortion?
Huge majorities support protections on children who have made it through the first three months of pregnancy, with other polls showing as many as three out of four supporting bans on late-term abortion. It’s not that the country is full of consistent pro-lifers, but the idea that the country is as radical on abortion as its most strident supporters are has no relationship to reality.
Rand Paul mentions the donkey in the room
Many in the media have been more or less unable to hide their general disdain for Sen. Rand Paul, who announced his bid for the presidency earlier this week. Many in the media have also been more or less unable to hide the fact that they take their marching orders from Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest seller of abortion services.
Since his announcement, the $1 billion abortion provider Planned Parenthood and their friends in the Democratic Party pushed the idea that Rand Paul’s views on abortion were disconcerting. Allies in the media stepped right up and began peppering him with questions about his pro-life stance. The Associated Press’ Philip Elliott, whose struggles covering abortion are legendary (seriously, check out the correction he had to run for somehow turning pro-choice Satanists into a pro-life problem), did what he does and, well, ran a story with the headline “Paul won’t spell out abortion ban exceptions.” By the time all the other Planned Parenthood-directed reporters spent the day asking him about abortion, Paul pointed out the rather obvious problem with media coverage of political views on abortion: Only pro-life candidates are asked tough questions about it. You can watch Paul’s answer to a reporter’s request that he respond to the Democratic National Committee’s take on his abortion views here, as uploaded by one Dave Weigel. (Go to 8:00 minutes into the video):
The reporter said the Democratic National Committee, chaired by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, didn’t like his views on abortion and asked for a response on what exceptions he’s willing to grant for when unborn lives can be ended. He responded:
We always seen to have the debate wayyyyyy over here on what are the exact details of exceptions, or when it starts. Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it okay to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus? You go back and you ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she’s OK with killing a seven-pound baby that is just not yet born yet. Ask her when life begins, and you ask Debbie when she’s willing to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me.
I’m not sure if any reporter did ask Wasserman Schultz about her views but she volunteered Dave Weigel at Bloomberg News asked Wasserman Schultz for comment and she said she favors zero restrictions on abortion. Reporters should follow-up with her to make sure she meant what she said. She probably did, since it’s also the Democratic Party’s platform. But just to be sure, does that mean she thinks it should be legal to kill a child as she’s exiting the birth canal? Just for the crime of being female? Does that sound as inhumane to her as it does to her critics? What about aborting a baby because she has a cleft palate? Could Wasserman Schultz tell us when human life begins — not when she feels it begins or believes it begins but when we know from scientific discovery that it begins? And after she answers those questions, maybe she can tell us when human life should be protected? And why? Maybe she could tell us the difference between what murderer Kermit Gosnell did and the late-term abortions she supports? And maybe when she’s asked, New York Times political reporter Jeremy W. Peters could avoid laughing. Certainly if political reporters have spent the last 40 years nailing down pro-lifers’ thoughts on rape and incest, we can spare a few questions for pro-choice politicians.
If, contra many reporters’ beliefs about the mainstream nature of their abortion views, as much as 75 percent of the population outside the DNC and America’s newsrooms supports restrictions on abortion in the third trimester, maybe we could interrogate that a bit. If every single GOP candidate from president to neighborhood dogcatcher had to answer questions about a certain Missouri candidate’s unorthodox thoughts on rape in 2012, maybe we can just get the same media to ask some mild questions of a few national Democrats who all have the same radical position on what can be done with seven-pound babies. It’s far, far, far too late to even hope the media might do their job with regard to President Obama, but the failure to accurately describe his radicalism on abortion is scandalous.
Think I’m exaggerating about disparate coverage? I’m not. As I wrote when the media had a wee bit of trouble — for years — coming up with any story ideas whatsoever for coverage of the murder trial of serial murderer-cum-abortionist Kermit Gosnell:
When Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin made a comment about women being raped last year, the New York Times responded with, according to a search engine count, about 250 stories in under three months. A sample of the 19 (!) headlines from just the first two days*: “Republicans Press Todd Akin to Quit Race,” “Romney Condemns Akin Remarks on Rape,” “Romney and Ryan Team Up on Trail Amid Criticism on Abortion,” “Akin’s No-Show on ‘Piers Morgan’ Is Boon for Program,” “Romney Statement on Abortion Contradicts Ryan’s Earlier Stance,” etc., etc., etc.
It didn’t slow down. That search engine shows 22 stories about Akin on August 21 alone. An August 22 story was headlined “Ryan Pressed to Explain Position on Rape and Abortion.”
I’m not sure if the New York Times will make it to 19 stories in two days. They have one, thus far. It’s a piece that reads like it could have been written by a Democratic communications shop, that probably should have been headlined “we have to run a brief mention of Paul’s epic takedown of our biased coverage of abortion, but we really wish we didn’t have to” and is instead headlined “Rand Paul Tangles With Democrats Over Abortion Rights.” I mean, technically he was also tangling with the media’s coverage of abortion politics. Either way, perhaps it’s a fitting and economical slip to say he’s tangling with Democrats.
Someone should remind the media that Hillary Clinton is running for president with the aforementioned Democratic Party. Given her position and all, we should ask her whether or not she thinks it barbaric to kill a full-term child at 39 weeks. What about at five months? She has had quite a bit of time to distance herself from Wasserman Schultz’s claims on abortion and yet hasn’t. Should there be 22 stories about this by Friday in the New York Times? I mean, for fairness’ sake? And if that’s how many stories we get for candidates such as Romney and Ryan who disagreed with someone else’s radical abortion views, how many stories should there be for those who seem to agree with it?
To not press this issue with pro-choice Democrats confirms the impression that the media keep Democrats out of fights where Democrats might get hurt. As Ace of Spades put it, “Democrats are always allowed No Answer.”
‘Pro-choice views aren’t news’
The problems with abortion coverage are all around us. Again, the Associated Press is one of the absolute worst at this. Recently Kansas passed legislation that bans abortions that dismember unborn children. It may not be pleasant to think about the ways in which we end the lives of unborn children but just as we want our media to tell us the details about police killings, an honest media tells us details about other important stories.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas became the first state Tuesday to ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure that critics describe as dismembering a fetus.
I mean, it either does or doesn’t dismember a fetus (NB: ‘fetus’ is the dehumanizing euphemism and obfuscatory term preferred by abortion advocates and the media for babies who have not yet been born and who we have authorized violence against). The procedure calls for the use of a suctioning device and forceps to remove the unborn child from the uterus. Why does the AP think such devices are used? The Associated Press doesn’t think it necessary to describe how the abortion works, only to say that the bill says “Doctors cannot use forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces.” So, in other words, dismemberment?
A reporter I know was sent to Missouri to cover the Senate race there late in the 2012 campaign season. Really that meant covering Akin. Knowing I have family from there, he asked if I had any thoughts. I told him, “You should ask [Claire] McCaskill how long during a pregnancy she thinks abortion should be legal, whether Down syndrome is a good reason to kill an unborn baby and whether aborting for reasons of sex selection should be legal. I don’t understand why we only ask the tough questions of one side.”
His response fascinated me. He said he would ask no such questions. The difference between McCaskill and Akin, he pre-ordained, was that she would answer well, that her support for killing children with Down syndrome “falls within the accepted spectrum of abortion views,” and that the issue is not that only one side gets tough questions but that one side is outside the mainstream. He flat out told me that McCaskill’s abortion views weren’t news.
I told him, “One of the most radical positions you can take on abortion, and one that is not supported by public opinion at all, is no limits of any kind on abortion. And yet a sizable number of Democrats take that position and are never — never — called on it.”
That was true in 2012, which was peak “War on Women” hysteria. It was true in 2013. It was true in 2014. It’s true in 2015. The half of the country that is pro-life, despite the lack of daylight between the media and abortion activists, is a bit sick of the double standards. (Seriously, if you can tell the difference between the Associated Press’ twitter account and Planned Parenthood’s, you’re amazing.)
Yet comments from the reporters mentioned above make me worried that our media are not even capable of understanding the problem with their views, much less correcting the horrifically imbalanced way they cover this topic.
The media have a long way to go to make up for the disparity in how they brutally interrogate pro-life views and put the worst construction on them while avoiding any tough coverage of pro-choice views. But there’s no time like the present for the media to stop carrying the abortion lobby’s water. Let’s get to it.