CNN's Missed Opportunity To Hold Jeb Bush Accountable For Florida's “Scarlet Letter” Law

CNN reporter Dana Bash missed the opportunity to press Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush on a 2001 Florida law he allowed to pass as governor that required single mothers to list their sexual histories in a newspaper before allowing children to be adopted.

In a prerecorded interview that aired on the June 14 edition of CNN's State of the Union, Dana Bash questioned Bush about his campaign for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, including how he will distinguish himself from his family's political record, but failed to press Bush on his record as governor of Florida.

Just days earlier, however, Bash highlighted Bush's record as governor, noting that he is “facing questions about a 2001 so-called Scarlet Letter law in Florida when he was governor, requiring single mothers to put a notice in the newspaper before they could give up a child for adoption.”

Bash also highlighted a statement from Bush's 1995 book Profiles in Character, in which he “argued for the 'restoration of shame' in society.” From Bush's book:

One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.

According to Huffington Post's Laura Bassett, Bush's book “points to Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, in which the main character is forced to wear a large red 'A' for 'adulterer' on her clothes to punish her for having an extramarital affair that produced a child, as an early model for his worldview.”

And, as Bassett explained, Florida's Scarlet Letter law was an “opportunity to test his theory on public shaming,” when he “declined to veto a very controversial bill,” -- that Marco Rubio and five members of Congress also voted for -- “that required single mothers who did not know the identity of the father to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper before they could legally put their babies up for adoption.”

NPR reported that part of Bush's rationale for the law was to decrease uncertainty about adoptions by “provid[ing] greater finality once the adoption is approved, and to avoid circumstances where future challenges to the adoption disrupt the life of the child.”

But a 2004 Notre Dame Law Review article explained that the personal information required by the law to be listed in newspapers was extensive:

“The notice ... must contain a physical description, including, but not limited to age, race, hair and eye color, and approximate height and weight of the minor's mother and of any person the mother reasonably believes may be the father; the minor's date of birth; and any date and city, including the county and state in which the city is located, in which conception may have occurred.”

And according to NPR, the ad “had to run once a week for a month, at the expense of either the mother or the people who wanted to adopt the baby, as that 2004 article explains.”

While Bush objected to parts of the law, in part because, “there is a shortage of responsibility on behalf of the birth father,” the 2001 law wasn't replaced until after a Florida court “declared the provision requiring women to list their sexual encounters unconstitutional because it was deemed an invasion of privacy.”