Will falsely suggested Obama comment was made in abortion contextJune 10, 2008 6:54 PM EDT ››› MARK BOCHKIS
On the June 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Washington Post columnist George Will described female pro-choice voters as "women who believe, in the words of Barack Obama, that they shouldn't be punished with a baby." But contrary to Will's suggestion, Obama was not talking about abortion when he made the comment.
Host Chris Matthews, discussing Sen. John McCain's efforts to woo anti-abortion evangelical Christian voters as well as Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters, said: "The women voters, as a group, who vote Democrat, tend to be pro-choice. It's a poor choice of words, but it means they believe, ultimately, the woman gets to decide whether to have an abortion or not, not the state." Will replied: "You mean those are women who believe, in the words of Barack Obama, that they shouldn't be punished with a baby?"
As Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, Obama made the "punished with a baby" comment in response to what CNN reported was "a question about how his administration, if he's elected, would deal with the issue of HIV and AIDS and also sexually transmitted diseases with young girls." As video of the March 29 campaign event, broadcast by CNN, shows, Obama was discussing sex education, not abortion, when he made the comment Will highlighted.
From the March 29 edition of CNN's Ballot Bowl 2008:
MARY SNOW (CNN correspondent): Welcome back to CNN's edition of Ballot Bowl. This is a chance for you to hear directly from the candidates. I'm Mary Snow in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where Senator Barack Obama is holding a town hall meeting right now, taking questions from the audience. Let's go straight to Senator Barack Obama; he just was asked a question about how his administration, if he's elected, would deal with the issue of HIV and AIDS and also sexually transmitted diseases with young girls. Here's Senator Barack Obama.
OBAMA: -- or we give them really expensive surgery and we don't spend money on the front end keeping people healthy in the first place. So, when it comes to -- when it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include -- which should include abstinence only -- should include abstinence education and teaching that children -- teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual. But it should also include -- it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I've got two daughters -- 9 years old and 6 years old. I'm going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16.
You know, so, it doesn't make sense to not give them information. You still want to teach them the morals and the values to make good decisions. That will be important, number one. Then we're still going to have to provide better treatment for those who do have -- who do contract HIV/AIDS, because it's no longer a death sentence, if, in fact, you get the proper cocktails. It's expensive. That's why we want to prevent as much as possible.
But we should also provide better treatment. And we should focus on those sectors where it's prevalent and we've got to get over the stigma because understand that the fastest growth in HIV/AIDS is in heterosexuals, not gays. And so, we've got to get out of that stigma that we still have around it. It's connected also to drug use. So, one of the things we have to do is to start thinking about better substance abuse treatment programs around drugs and not just treat it as a criminal justice issue. Treat it as a public health issue as well.
So -- but this all is connected to the idea of prevention and so my health care plan says, you know what? I don't want kids in the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma. I want them to get a primary care doctor and have regular check-ups and, you know, if we decreased obesity rates back to the rates that existed back in 1980, we would save the Medicare system a trillion dollars -- one trillion dollars because that's what's accounting for huge spikes in heart disease and diabetes and all kinds of preventable illnesses.
So we've got to put emphasis on that. Let me say one last thing, though. I'm going to use the presidential bully pulpit to start talking about people taking responsibility. We were talking about education earlier. It doesn't matter how good the job the schools are doing, if parents, you don't turn off your TV sets and put away your video games and make your kids do your homework and meet with the teachers, it won't make any difference. And the same is true on health care. I mean, some of us just have bad luck, and -- or genetically, are predisposed to certain diseases.
But, you know, if we're not all making some effort to get exercise and, you know, eat properly and not smoke and, you know, and I know -- I've had my own little battles. You know, I used to sneak a few cigarettes once in a while. My wife cut me off at the pass. She announced on 60 Minutes, she said, you know, "Yeah, he used to smoke once in a while, and he promised me. So if you catch him, anybody out there" -- but that was good. I think we all have to take some responsibility for these issues as well. That's going to be important. All right, I've got time for one more question.
From the June 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: How does he [McCain] choose between the evangelical vote and the Hillary vote? He seems to be going for both in the same day.
WILL: Well, I think he feels that his persona, his whole "I'm a warrior, I've been here, I've suffered" will appeal to these people who think they are suffering.
MATTHEWS: The women voters, as a group, who vote Democrat, tend to be pro-choice. It's a poor choice of words, but it means they believe, ultimately, the woman gets to decide whether to have an abortion or not, not the state. How can John McCain appeal to that point of view?
WILL: You mean those are women who believe, in the words of Barack Obama, that they shouldn't be punished with a baby?
WILL: Got it.
MATTHEWS: Another infelicitous comment --
WILL: That's right.
MATTHEWS: -- yes.
WILL: I suspect, Chris, that three-quarters of the country at this point does not know that John McCain is pro-life. They think because he's a maverick, and maverick means disagreeing with your party, he probably disagrees with the party on that. They're wrong. And I think once the Democrats make that known, as surely they will, these people will come scampering back to the Democratic Party in droves.