Right-wing media responded to budget negotiations and the debate over Planned Parenthood funding by making sexist attacks against women and deriding women's health services as, among other things, "non-vital" and "optional."
Conservative Media Attack Women And Women's Health Care During Budget Debate
Beck: "Hookers? ... Who Depends On Planned Parenthood?" On the April 11 edition of his radio show, Glenn Beck, along with his co-host Pat Gray and producer Stu Burguiere, repeatedly mocked MSNBC anchor Lawrence O'Donnell for getting emotional while reading an email from a woman who described her need for the services offered by Planned Parenthood. Beck then stated:
BECK: Hookers? Who? Who depends on Planned Parenthood? I have to have -- I've got 400 abortions that I have to have. I have to have these children aborted. I'm depending on Planned Parenthood. Lawrence O'Donnell has friends that depend on Planned Parenthood.
GRAY: Can you imagine, though, of all the things to be broken up about, these guys over there at that stupid channel make fun of Glenn almost nightly for crying or whatever, and it's crying over things that -- the country, patriotism --
BURGUIERE: Islamic extremism.
GRAY: -- losing our freedom --
BURGUIERE: People killed in Israel.
BECK: You're saying -- hang on a second. Wait. Wait.
GRAY: -- and he is all choked over Planned Parenthood?
BECK: Are you saying that it is not right to cry over children that are being killed?
GRAY: Or wanting them to be?
BURGUIERE: Yeah. You're supposed to be crying about them not -- avoiding being killed. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 4/11/11]
Limbaugh On Woman Concerned About Access To Birth Control: "We Are Supposed To Pay In The Event" She "Did Not Close Her Legs." On the April 8 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh discussed with a caller the story of a woman concerned about access to birth control. From the show:
CALLER: I wanted to make a comment on the Democrat congresswoman going through security, and the woman was so concerned about her birth control?
CALLER: What should've been said to her was try closing your legs. That works. And the tax payers don't have to pay for that.
LIMBAUGH: Yeah, it's kind of like abstinence. You know, it works every time it's tried.
CALLER: It certainly does. It certainly does and I just want --
LIMBAUGH: But, now, that's -- but, see, you understand that won't work. We are supposed to pay in the event the deputy sheriff did not close her legs. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/8/11]
WSJ Dismisses Importance Of Planned Parenthood Funding, Says It "Is A Low Fiscal Priority." In an April 12 editorial, The Wall Street Journal wrote:
We certainly agree that, amid a $1.5 trillion deficit, taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is preposterous. Let George Soros or Peter Lewis spend their private fortunes to support the group's abortion counseling. But Mr. Boehner was wise to drop the provision on Friday rather than let Mr. Obama portray a shutdown as a fight over abortion rights. If Republicans want to win this fight in the coming months, they need to convince voters that Planned Parenthood funding is a low fiscal priority, not make it seem as if they want to use the budget to stage a cultural brawl. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/12/11]
O'Reilly: Planned Parenthood Is "Non-Vital" Because "Nobody's Life Is Affected" By It. On the April 7 edition of his Fox News show, discussing budget negotiations with Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Bill O'Reilly argued that there's "a continued resistance by the Democratic Party to the deep cuts that are necessary to get the nation back on the road to solvency." O'Reilly advocated for defunding "non-vital" organizations like Planned Parenthood because, he claimed, "[n]obody's life is affected by Planned Parenthood." From the segment:
RANGEL: Well, Bill, you should know, and I know you do know, that just cutting spending doesn't mean you gotta have savings. You just can't come in and slash and burn and cut out programs.
O'REILLY: Why not? Why can't you slash Planned Parenthood and NPR and these non-vital programs? Why can't you slash them?
RANGEL: Well, we're talking about health care. We're talking about education. We're talking about environment.
O'REILLY: Well, health care is another matter. That has to -- look --
RANGEL: Oh, OK. What we're talking about --
O'REILLY: Health care is another matter. That has to be taken very methodically because people's lives are affected.
RANGEL: But what about --
O'REILLY: But nobody's life is affected by NPR. Nobody's life is affected by Planned Parenthood. These are options. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/7/11]
O'Reilly: "It's Hard To Believe Liberals Want To Continue Funding Things Like ... Planned Parenthood." "That's Optional Stuff." On the April 8 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly claimed that "liberals want an expensive nanny state," which is the reason Democrats "don't want deep cuts." He then blasted Planned Parenthood funding, saying:
O'REILLY: The world will not continue to prop up America's massive debt indefinitely. Chinese hold more than a trillion dollars in U.S. bonds and other debt vehicles. If they dump those investments on the world market, we the people are in huge trouble. The U.S. dollar might well collapse. So federal spending must come down and fast. It's hard to believe that liberals want to continue funding things like public broadcasting, Planned Parenthood, and various art projects. That's optional stuff. And it should be, all of those things should be in the private marketplace. If the Factor can raise a million bucks in less than two months from military families, then liberal Americans can damn well support Planned Parenthood. Or am I wrong? [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/8/11]
Limbaugh Dismisses "Women's Health" As Pertaining Only To Abortion. Discussing the budget talks, Limbaugh stated that the negotiations could be summed up this way: "What's a few dead babies between friends?" He added: "I mean, that's really where we are here, folks, in discussing the pending government shutdown." Limbaugh went on to say:
LIMBAUGH: And they're calling this "women's health." Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democrats are out there describing this as a Republican assault on women's health. Or alternately they say that they Republicans are focused on the usual social issues that the Independents don't care anything about. But what it boils down to is: What's a few dead babies between friends? Obama's got no problems ordering a moratorium on drilling for oil, but he will not support a moratorium on drilling for babies. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/8/11]
Big Hollywood Derides Health Care Ad For Women: "When I Say Essential Care To Millions Of Women, I Mean Killing Babies." In an April 8 post on Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood website, contributor John Nolte mocked an ad for Planned Parenthood narrated by actress Scarlett Johansson. Purporting to "translat[e]" the ad, Nolte wrote:
"Even though I have more money than the God I don't believe in, taxpayers should still foot the bill to murder the innocent unborn, especially the disproportionally Black innocent unborn. When I say essential care to millions of women, I mean killing babies. When I say health care, I mean killing babies. When I say STDs, I mean killing babies. When I say birth control, you better believe I mean killing babies. I'm a movie star mostly known for my awesome body but I want to be taken seriously and so even though there's hunger in the world, war, disease, and slavery -- this is my issue. Killing babies.
Has anyone seen my smart-girl glasses? They were right here." [Big Hollywood, 4/8/11]
Fox & Friends Dismisses Planned Parenthood Services Like Pap Smears Because You Can Get Them "At Walgreens." On the April 9 edition of Fox & Friends, discussing what co-host Brian Kilmeade called a "bizarre" speech by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on how important it is to keep funding Planned Parenthood, Kilmeade and co-host Steve Doocy attempted to dismiss the importance of Planned Parenthood funding by claiming that services like pap smears are available "at Walgreens." From the show:
DOOCY: And the thing about it that was audacious was the fact that he [Sen. Harry Reid] was talking about Planned Parenthood being this great provider where women can get blood pressure checks, and pap smears, and breast --
KILMEADE: Which you can get at Walgreens.
DOOCY: -- examinations. Exactly right. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/9/11]
- Walgreens Corrects Fox & Friends: We Don't Offer Pap Smears. Take Care Clinic spokeswoman Lauren Nestler responded to the segment in an email to Media Matters, saying that "[n]either Walgreens, nor its in-store healthcare clinics, Take Care Clinics, offer pap smears or breast exams." The clinics, which are a subsidiary of Walgreens, offer health services like flu vaccines and blood pressure screening at approximately 350 Walgreens stores. [Media Matters, 4/11/11]
Erickson: "Planned Parenthood Killed Almost As Many People In 2009 As Live In Cincinnati, OH." In an April 8 post on his Twitter feed, CNN contributor and RedState.com editor Erick Erickson highlighted a story on Beck's website, The Blaze, reporting that "Planned Parenthood performed one abortion every 95 seconds last year." Erickson wrote:
[Erick Erickson, Twitter feed, 4/8/11]
Huckabee: "I'm Not A Fan Of Planned Parenthood. I Think It's 'Planned Barren-hood,' For The Most Part." On the April 9 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee falsely claimed that Planned Parenthood is "primarily an abortion provider," saying, "Look, I'm not a fan of Planned Parenthood. I think it's 'planned barren-hood,' for the most part. And I don't appreciate the fact that they are primarily an abortion provider, even though they claim to be about women's health." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/9/11]
WSJ's McGurn Outraged Over "How Inflexible" Obama Was Over Planned Parenthood Funding. In his April 12 Wall Street Journal column titled, "Who's the Extremist Now?" William McGurn complained that "[t]he president was willing to shut down the entire federal government rather than see Planned Parenthood's federal funding cut," and relayed a Republican aide's tale about how "chilling" it was "to see how inflexible Mr. Obama was" over the issue. McGurn then suggested that Obama's "ideological" stand on Planned Parenthood was "calculating" and due to "political logic." From McGurn's column, which carried the subhead: "The president would have shut down government over Planned Parenthood funding":
In the end, President Barack Obama was the one who refused to blink on Planned Parenthood. Another way of saying it is this: The president was willing to shut down the entire federal government rather than see Planned Parenthood's federal funding cut.
According to press accounts leaked by Democratic aides, House Speaker John Boehner argued for the funding cut late into the evening. The president answered, "Nope, zero." He then said, "John, this is it." Mr. Boehner accepted the budget deal without that cut.
A Republican aide confirmed more or less the same account to me. He said it was "chilling" to see how inflexible Mr. Obama was. You might call it ideological.
Certainly there's a political logic here. To begin with, many of the women's groups that supported him are still smarting over the executive order (banning federal dollars for abortions) he issued to secure passage of his health-care bill. That's still a sore spot, even though -- as his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, recently told the Chicago Tribune editorial board -- that language is not in the law. The presumption being, of course, that eventually the order will be overridden.
The hard line on Planned Parenthood funding also makes sense if the president was calculating that Mr. Boehner would get the blame for a shutdown no matter what. That's a reasonable assumption, judging from the way the press has swallowed the White House line on who the extremists here are.
Surely it tells you something about who the real extremists are that an up or down vote is deemed a concession. In an appearance at a rally before the deal, Mr. Schumer vowed that any bill taking taxpayer dollars from Planned Parenthood would "never, never, never" pass the Senate. In the normal way of doing things, it wouldn't even have come up for a vote.
Most Americans, it is probably safe to say, have no idea that we are talking about an organization that performed 332,278 abortions in 2009 -- one abortion every 95 seconds. Planned Parenthood counters that no federal dollars go to abortion, but Americans are not stupid. They know money is fungible.
As for serving pregnant women, that would be worth some congressional attention too. Planned Parenthood's own numbers show that more than 97% of pregnant women it treated were given abortions -- against fewer than 3% who received nonabortion services such as adoption or prenatal care.
Thanks to Mr. Boehner, we'll at least have a democratic debate on this subject instead of a backroom fait accompli. And thanks to the way this deal was struck, we have a reminder that it was the Democratic president and not the Republican speaker who stood on ideology when he decided that it was worth shutting down the entire federal government to protect Planned Parenthood's taxpayer dollars. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/12/11]
O'Reilly Suggests Women's Health Care Isn't "Worthy" Enough To Be Funded By Government. On the April 11 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly continued to bash federal funding for Planned Parenthood, saying, "I don't want Planned Parenthood funded by the government. I don't want it. If it's that worthy, private donations." Fox News contributor Juan Williams then stated: "That's such a losing ticket for the Republicans. What happens here is when the Republicans introduce social issues like Planned Parenthood -- essentially, abortion, an argument over abortion, highly polarizing, upsetting everybody -- they ceded the good ground." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/11/11]