NBC's Mitchell falsely suggested Obama was discussing abortion when he made "punished with a baby" comment

››› ››› SIMON MALOY & KATHLEEN HENEHAN

On MSNBC Live, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell falsely suggested that Sen. Barack Obama was discussing abortion when he said of his two daughters at a March 29 campaign event: "I don't want them punished with a baby." In fact, as CNN reported, Obama's comments were in response to "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."

On the March 31 edition of MSNBC Live, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell falsely suggested that Sen. Barack Obama was discussing abortion when he said of his two daughters at a March 29 campaign event: "I don't want them punished with a baby." Mitchell said that Obama "was questioned by a woman who is against abortion, and he referred to the fact that he has two daughters and he would not want them to be punished if they made a mistake -- 'punished with a baby.' " Mitchell went on to ask former Rep. Tim Roemer (D-IN): "How will that go over with the pro-life, or, if you prefer, the anti-abortion constituency in Pennsylvania?" However, as video of the event broadcast by CNN shows, Obama made no reference to abortion in the comments highlighted by Mitchell, but was instead referring to sex education. Additionally, CNN reported that Obama's comments were in response to "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."

Later in the same program, while talking with Washington Post reporter Anne E. Kornblut, Mitchell again brought up Obama's "answer on Saturday to an anti-abortion woman in Pennsylvania when he referred to having -- you know -- if his children had an unwanted pregnancy, it would be a punishment." Kornblut claimed that the comment "would, in all likelihood, come back to punish him -- punish him, to use his phrase -- in the general election rather than in the primary," adding: "At this point, he and Senator Clinton are basically completely in sync when it comes to abortion."

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 1 p.m. ET hour of the March 31 edition of MSNBC Live:

MITCHELL: Congressman, let me ask you -- let me ask you about something that Barack Obama said in Pennsylvania on Saturday, I believe, to a town hall meeting. He was questioned by a woman who is against abortion, and he referred to the fact that he has two daughters and he would not want them to be punished if they made a mistake -- "punished with a baby." How will that go over with the pro-life, or, if you prefer, the anti-abortion constituency in Pennsylvania?

ROEMER: Well, I'm a pro-life Democrat, Andrea, and I've heard Senator Obama talk very articulately and eloquently about how difficult this decision is.

MICHELL: But using the term punishment about a baby, is that --

ROEMER: Well, let's talk about -- I think the way he's talked about it in the past and how he has talked about it to me and other supporters has been that this is a moral dilemma with tragic outcomes for people, and that we have to find ways to reduce the number of abortions. That's the kind of language that I think is reflected in his faith as a Christian and that's the kind of thing that he would work on, I hope, as president. Let's talk about his record on this and his views and how he's expressed it. And I think, you know, that more accurately reflects how he feels about it.

[...]

MITCHELL: And Anne, do you think that he also has to try to explain himself on some other issues? You know, he's a liberal senator by any -- you know, maybe not the National Journal's description of him because he missed so many of those votes -- but he still is a liberal senator on issues like guns and abortion. And what about his answer on Saturday to an anti-abortion woman in Pennsylvania when he referred to having -- you know -- if his children had an unwanted pregnancy, it would be a punishment. That's not the language that --

KORNBLUT: Right, for her to wind up --

MITCHELL: -- you'd want to use.

KORNBLUT: -- with a baby, yeah. That's -- I think that's language that would, in all likelihood, come back to punish him -- punish him, to use his phrase -- in the general election rather than in the primary. At this point, he and Senator Clinton are basically completely in sync when it comes to abortion. She, of course, has used her husband's rhetoric about safe, legal, and rare. Neither of them emphasizes wanting to be pro-abortion, but they do talk about -- they're obviously both pro-choice, pro-abortion rights. So, at this point, it's -- we've already seen a few columns pop up ever since he said that in the last 48 hours. I expect we will, but, really, I think it's an issue for the general election against McCain.

Posted In
Elections, Health Care, HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Andrea Mitchell
Show/Publication
CNN Live
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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