In 2015 and early 2016, CNN hosted more than twice as many anti-choice guests as pro-choice guests on its evening news programs, according to a new Media Matters study. CNN also didn’t host any reproductive rights advocates as guests until November’s fatal attack on a Colorado Springs, CO, Planned Parenthood health care center.
Media Matters analyzed CNN’s evening news programs from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016, for segments featuring a substantial discussion of abortion. We found that CNN’s programs included more people who self-identified as anti-choice (47) than as pro-choice (18) -- all of them guests, as opposed to hosts or correspondents -- in conversations about abortion-related topics.
While CNN’s evening news programs included guests who personally identified as pro-choice, they didn’t include anyone who works as an advocate for reproductive rights as part of a discussion about abortion until there was a deadly attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on November 27. In fact, 36 percent of CNN’s total coverage of abortion-related topics over the 14-month study period -- which was also the least of the three major cable news networks -- occurred on that night. The two appearances by pro-choice advocates on CNN were made by representatives of Planned Parenthood, who appeared on November 27 and November 30 to discuss the attack on their clinic.
In contrast, CNN’s evening news programs hosted anti-choice advocate Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, four times before the attack.
In addition to the guest imbalance, CNN’s evening news programs did not discuss any violence, threats or harassment directed against abortion clinics or providers prior to November 27 -- not even the four separate arson attacks against Planned Parenthood clinics that occurred in the span of 74 days in 2015. A previous study released by Media Matters in October 2015 also found that cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country largely did not cover the incidents.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) has been tracking violence and threats directed at abortion providers since 1977, and the organization issued a report in April detailing a dramatic increase in the number of direct threats of harm in 2015 from the previous years, a disturbing upward trend the FBI has confirmed. NARAL president Ilyse Hogue criticized the press for providing insufficient coverage of the epidemic of attacks, saying outlets “need to report these incidents as what they are: domestic terrorism” or they will be giving “extremists the cover to regressively and violently attack women, their access to health care, and the medical professionals who provide it.”