On SiriusXM’s Signal Boost, Media Matters' Sharon Kann calls out Trump's State of the Union abortion lies
Kann: Given the “well-worn pipeline” from Fox News to Trump, “it was unsurprising” to see him repeat right-wing misinformation during the address
Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
On the February 7 edition of SiriusXM’s Signal Boost with Zerlina Maxwell and Jess McIntosh, Media Matters’ Sharon Kann discussed the anti-abortion lies President Donald Trump pushed during his 2019 State of the Union address. Trump incorrectly claimed that recent measures in Virginia and New York "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth” and enable providers to "execute a baby after birth.” In reality, those measures were designed to protect abortion access at the state level, and right-wing media's claims of “infanticide” have no bearing on the medical reality of abortions that happen later in pregnancy, which are often undertaken due to health complications or nonviable fetuses.
Kann told co-hosts Zerlina Maxwell and Jess McIntosh that the anti-abortion lies in Trump’s address had been predated by a “massive spike in coverage” of the issue on conservative media, and Fox News in particular, with media figures touting the same misinformation. As Kann noted, Trump's comments underscore the reality that there is a “well-worn pipeline between things that happen on Fox News and things that the president ends up saying”:
JESS MCINTOSH (CO-HOST): So, the president stood up on Tuesday night and lied a whole bunch. And some of those lies are being clocked by the media and some of them seemed to -- I think there’s a bar, like where you get so crazy, the media gets tired and won’t fact-check you. And saying that doctors are murdering babies outside the womb maybe is just a bridge too far, and the media just lets it go, but they shouldn’t let it go because Republicans are using it and running on it, and it will be a theme in 2020. So, Sharon, talk to me about what we heard from the president and what we can do to combat that.
SHARON KANN: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a couple of points that you just brought up that are really worth expanding on. The first is that, prior to the State of the Union, with the introduction of the law in New York and the bill in Virginia, we saw just sort of a massive spike in coverage about abortion-related issues from conservative media writ large, but specifically Fox News. And, as we know, there is a well-worn pipeline between things that happen on Fox News and things that the president ends up saying. So, it was unsurprising that some of the things that we’ve been seeing repeated on Fox News for the best couple of weeks showed up in that speech. Specifically, I think something that we’ve been seeing a lot in conservative media is this argument that Democrats are pushing these extreme bills that are allowing doctors to perform infanticide and there are so many different iteratives of sensationalized and inaccurate language about abortions that happen later in pregnancy that are being repeated. And those are things, like you said, that, like, “‘abortions are being performed after birth” or like “when somebody is dilating.” And that President Trump brought those things up at the State of the Union, I think, is predictable.
Kann further explained that some major outlets like MSNBC are “repeating some of the really pernicious and inaccurate language” about abortion from Trump’s State of the Union address and from right-wing media. She said such further amplification of this misinformation contributes to the stigmatization of abortion and encourages harassment of providers and clinics:
ZERLINA MAXWELL (CO-HOST): How do we get to a place where -- what do we do to combat rhetoric that is so inflammatory that you have to do a lot of explaining before you can get to the point?
KANN: Yeah. I mean, I think that your sense is sort of -- I think the microcosm of post-State of the Union fact-checking is a really good example here because we actually did a piece yesterday sort of documenting some examples of social media and fact checks that occurred both during and immediately after the State of the Union, and even outlets that you would want and expect to do a better job were repeating some of the really pernicious and inaccurate language. They were saying things like, for example, “The president spoke about late-term abortion.” And it’s like, it’s not late-term abortion. That’s not a medically, or scientifically, sound term; it’s one that was in fact invented to villainize and shame people for having abortions. And, like you said, the implications of that are vast and very serious, ranging from personal harassment to things like clinic harassment, which we know is a very serious issue. I think in terms of stuff outlets should be doing or can be doing, I think we really shouldn’t -- I would like to underscore and I don’t think we should underplay the amount that this sort of echo chamber that exists around abortion-related issues, not just in conservative media, but on the internet discussions writ large, is something that, although sensationalized and at times may seem, like you said, sort of ridiculous, I think when they’re the only ones talking about it and they are talking about it in inaccurate ways, that has sort of a spillover effect, and it changes the way that even mainstream media engages in conversations. So, I think the first thing is that mainstream media, when they talk about abortion, need to be doing it accurately and need to not be afraid to talk about it because when we let abortion stigma dominate conversations, typically what happens is we see resulting coverage that is sensationalized and inaccurate.