Sanitizing Trump: What national broadcast outlets got wrong about Trump and a national abortion ban

As Trump’s anti-choice ally says he could sign a national abortion ban, national media downplay the risk

Once again, mainstream outlets are misleadingly sanitizing the language of Donald Trump, this time by obscuring evidence that he would sign a national abortion ban.

The former president has taken credit for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, spoken openly about getting a national abortion ban “done,” and surrounded himself with zealots who have close ties to a network of people talking openly about using a second Trump administration to restrict abortion access to unprecedented levels.

National broadcast outlets are misreading a short video Trump posted on abortion to make misleading at best claims about his position on abortion — when in reality there is plenty of evidence that Trump and his MAGA allies simply want the issue to go away until after the election.

After major news outlets spent Monday falsely claiming that Trump said abortion “should” be left to the states in a video announcement, news broadcasts on ABC, NBC, and CBS repeated the claim. In examining coverage from the evening of April 8 and the morning of April 9, we found all three networks also failed to fact-check (or even mention) the former president’s ridiculous and false claim that Democrats support “execution after birth.”

CBS Evening News even concluded that Trump preferred to leave abortion decisions to the states after interviewing anti-choice activist Marjorie Dannenfelser, who said that, after having spoken with Trump the morning of April 8, a national ban was still on the table.

In a four-minute video posted to Truth Social on April 8, Trump merely restated the current state-by-state status of abortion rights: “The states will determine, by vote or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land. In this case, the law of the state.”

Trump made no explicit mention of whether he would sign a national abortion ban and declined to comment on the ongoing Supreme Court legal challenge to the most widely used abortion method, the medication mifepristone.

He had previously promised to get a national abortion ban “done” and had recently signaled support for a 15-week ban. Even to this day, while MAGA allies of Trump discuss in their proposed transition plan Project 2025 using the Comstock Act to ban abortion pill access, Trump’s campaign is maintaining strategic silence.

As some pundits have noted, Trump may be saying whatever he thinks will get the abortion issue off the table. And so far, this particular video gambit seems to be getting the media to play along with him.

In the same video, Trump pushed classic right-wing abortion misinformation. He smeared Democrats as supporters of infanticide — in his words, “execution after birth” — and falsely claimed that “all legal scholars, both sides, wanted and, in fact, demanded” the end of Roe v. Wade.

Despite Trump’s continued obfuscation about his stance on a national abortion ban in the video, all three network news shows reported that Trump said abortion rights “should” be left to the states. As Matt Gertz noted yesterday, this is a patent fabrication — Trump only restated the current law that it is left to the states.

ABC News

Instead of acknowledging Trump’s vague words — or his long track record of lyingABC World News Tonight described Trump’s stance as “a reversal” of his speculative support of a national 15-week abortion ban: “Now, Donald Trump declaring the matter should be left up to individual states.”

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Citation From the April 8, 2024, edition of ABC's ABC World News Tonight with David Muir

ABC did fact-check Trump’s claim that “both sides” wanted the end of Roe.

The following morning, ABC’s Good Morning America similarly read in the word “should” to Trump’s statement. But the segment did conclude by saying that Trump’s remarks raised questions about what he would do as president, both in terms of a national abortion ban and restricting medications, and that he has been all over the place personally on the issue.

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Citation From the April 9, 2024, edition of ABC's Good Morning America

NBC News

NBC Nightly News similarly read in the word “should”, claiming that Trump “declin[ed] to call for a national ban, instead saying it should be up to states to decide on any restrictions.”

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Citation From the April 8, 2024, edition of NBC's NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt

The Today show also read in the word “should” to Trump’s statement, and then simply portrayed Trump as under fire from everyone from President Joe Biden to Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence. The segment did absolutely nothing to investigate what a second Trump administration would do on abortion, instead portraying the urgent matter as Trump’s personal evolution on abortion, as if that’s what has been driving outrage across the country for years.

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Citation From the April 9, 2024, edition of NBC's Today

CBS News

CBS Evening News reported that Trump “tried to clarify his position” on a national abortion ban, and that he “suggested today that the federal government should stay out of the abortion rights debate.” The show’s chyron was more direct: “Trump says abortion laws should be left to states.” And the chyron aired even as the show interviewed anti-abortion activist Marjorie Dannenfelser, who said that after speaking with Trump that morning, she thought that the door to a national ban remains open.

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Citation From the April 8, 2024, edition of CBS' CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell

CBS This Morning also read in the word “should” to Trump’s statement, but the show did explain by saying that Trump was avoiding saying whether he would sign an abortion ban, which was a significant improvement on the CBS segment from the prior evening. The segment also aired more from Dannenfelser, only this time CBS correctly contextualized her remarks with its segment framing.

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Citation From the April 9, 2024 edition of CBS Mornings

All three news outlets omitted Trump’s outlandish claim that Democrats’ pro-choice policies include infanticide.