On the July 19 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, during a segment discussing reports that Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) lobbied in the early 1990s on behalf of a group trying to ease restrictions on federal funding to groups that engage in abortion counseling, CNN correspondent Tom Foreman asserted: “Fred Thompson certainly sounds like a conservative opposed to abortion rights,” adding: “And, when he officially jumps into the race for the White House, he's counting on the support of values voters.” As Media Matters for America has documented, CNN reporters, generally on The Situation Room, have repeatedly linked “values” and religious faith with conservatives or those opposing abortion rights:
- On the May 15 edition of The Situation Room, CNN chief national correspondent John King said that the state of South Carolina “has a history of mixing God and politics” and, therefore, would be a “critical testing ground” to gauge whether “a former big city mayor who supports abortion rights” can win the Republican presidential nomination, suggesting that belief in God and opposition to abortion rights go hand-in-hand.
- On the October 19, 2006, edition of The Situation Room, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley asserted without evidence that Democrats have been “on the losing side of the values debate, the defense debate and, oh yes, the guns debate,” even though multiple public opinion polls indicated that the majority of the public prefers Democrats to handle the issues of “moral values,” the “war on terror,” and Iraq.
- On the October 3, 2006, edition of The Situation Room, King twice equated “pro-family voters” with “conservatives.” During the previous day's Situation Room, King had prefaced a question to Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), by stating that “pro-family voters” looked to the conservative FRC “for guidance and advice” during political controversies.
- On the September 5, 2006, edition of The Situation Room, CNN Internet reporter Abbi Tatton said that “polling shows that faithful and Democrat did not go hand-in-hand in recent elections. In 2004, white evangelicals made up nearly a quarter of the electorate and voted overwhelmingly for President Bush.” Tatton's statement rested on the assumption that the demographic of the “faithful” was composed entirely of white evangelicals.
- On the June 28, 2006, edition of The Situation Room, CNN senior national correspondent (now anchor) John Roberts asserted that "[f]or years, Democrats, unlike Republicans, have been afraid to wear religion on their sleeve." Roberts then added that it is now “to the point” that Democrats are “perceived as a party of secular snobs,” which has “turned off a large slice of America.”
Additionally, on the June 4 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, previewing the Presidential Forum on Faith, Values, and Poverty that aired later that day on CNN, congressional correspondent Dana Bash said to host Wolf Blitzer: "[W]e are going to hear from Democratic presidential candidates talking about something, as you said, we usually hear about -- at least in the last couple of elections -- from Republicans, and that is, they are going to talk about their faith, their religion, and their values," suggesting that Democrats have talked little about values.
From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the July 19 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
KING: New developments today involving another presidential prospect, Fred Thompson. His past work could put him in a bind with crucial conservative voters he's been trying to court. Our Tom Foreman is following that story. Tom, what are we learning?
FOREMAN: Well, John, it comes down to the question: How much does abortion really matter to these folks? And, depending on the answer, it looks like an old job could spell new trouble for the probable presidential hopeful.
[begin video clip]
THOMPSON: Belief in the sanctity of human life, these things that have been -- [applause]
FOREMAN (voice-over): Fred Thompson certainly sounds like a conservative opposed to abortion rights. And, when he officially jumps into the race for the White House, he's counting on the support of values voters.
But billing records show that, in 1991 and '92, Thompson spent some 20 hours lobbying for a group that was trying to ease federal laws that restricted abortion counseling. The records detailing his work for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association were first reported Thursday by The New York Times and also obtained by CNN.
Earlier this month, in response to a Los Angeles Times story, Thompson said he had no recollection of doing anything to aid the abortion rights group. But, last week, the former senator from Tennessee and longtime Washington lobbyist backtracked from that statement.