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“Deeply unfit to lead”: Right-wing media are split over Trump’s “weak” statement on abortion

Former President Donald Trump’s latest statement that “the states will determine” the legality of abortion has divided right-wing media figures, with some decrying Trump as “weak,” “someone with no moral compass,” and even “a collaborator in a genocide happening right here in our own nation.” Others, especially some Fox News figures, applauded his latest statement as a “smart” strategy for the upcoming election. 

Updates (last updated 4/12/24): This piece has been updated multiple times with additional examples.

  • Trump’s latest statement on abortion policy comes after months of dithering by the candidate

    • On Truth Social, Trump released a video explaining his stance on abortion restrictions and other issues of reproductive rights. In the video, Trump declared, “My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land,” adding, “At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.” However, he claimed, “Like Ronald Reagan, I am strongly in favor of exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.” Trump also cautioned, “You must follow your heart on this issue but remember, you must also win elections to restore our culture and, in fact, to save our country, which is currently and very sadly a nation in decline.” [Truth Social, 4/8/24]
    • Notably, Trump’s statement left out important details such as whether he would sign a congressional bill banning abortion or seek to restrict access to abortion medications. Trump, a resident of Florida, also failed to mention how he may vote on the state’s November ballot measure to approve a constitutional amendment securing abortion access before fetal viability. [HuffPost, 4/8/24]
    • Since abortion access has proven to be a major factor affecting voter turnout, Trump and the Republican Party have continuously failed to reach consensus on abortion messaging that would appease anti-abortion activists without ostracizing voters who support some access to abortion. Throughout his 2024 campaign, Trump has largely avoided making firm statements regarding abortion but he has spoken out against hard-line anti-abortion policies for threatening GOP electoral success. [CNN, 4/4/24]
  • Some right-wing media figures were incensed by his “weak statement” and offered “better” strategies that wouldn’t provide “fodder for Democrats to blast him”

    • Blaze Media host Allie Beth Stuckey called Trump’s video a “weak, weak statement that is a signal for independents who will never vote for him anyway.” She also posted, “Babies conceived via rape/incest are just as much babies as any other. Why do they deserve the death penalty for the circumstances of their conception? This simply isn’t a pro-life statement.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • Former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis wrote, “So weak. Trump punts on the issue of pro-life and pledges to support whatever states decide, including blue states that will allow abortion until the moment of birth.” She added, “‘Follow your heart’ is a Hallmark card, not strong conservative principled policy.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • Washington Examiner contributor Kimberly Ross posted that “Trump is no pro-life hero.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • Casey Mattox, vice president of legal and judicial strategy at Americans for Prosperity, wrote: “Having now watched the Trump video on abortion, I have to say that I believe it is an error to make someone with no moral compass and no actual convictions into the voice of the pro-life movement.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • National Review quoted anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America as being “deeply disappointed” in Trump’s abortion position. The article quoted SBA group President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who “argued the former president’s refusal to endorse federal abortion restrictions hands a victory to Democrats ‘who are working relentlessly to enact legislation mandating abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy,’ she said. ‘If successful, they will wipe out states’ rights.’” [National Review, 4/8/24]
    • In a Fox News op-ed, Dannenfelser said Trump’s statement “tragically pigeonholes abortion as a matter of states’ rights." “The geography of where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live,” she wrote. “President Trump and the GOP should embrace and fight for this consensus – not abandon the fight nationally. Embracing this position is both smart policy and smart politics.” [Fox News, 4/9/24]
    • Anti-abortion leader Terrisa Bukovinac posted, “Trump is a collaborator in a genocide happening right here in our own nation and is deeply unfit to lead.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • An article in the Washington Examiner argued that Trump’s comments “provided fodder for Democrats to blast him once again and angered some anti-abortion members of his GOP base.” The article also quoted Dannenfelser and highlighted anti-abortion groups’ displeasure with his statement. [Washington Examiner, 4/8/24]
    • Conservative podcast host Liz Wheeler outlined a “better strategy for Trump on abortion,” including “Describe abortion & what Democrats want to be legal (ie. late term, infanticide)” and “Use stories of women who KEPT their babies to counter the emotion the left uses when they pretend all abortions are about 12yo girls.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • Live Action founder Lila Rose wrote, “President Trump is not a pro-life candidate. He’s far less pro-abortion than Biden, but he supports killing some preborn children and will even make that his position in an attempt to get pro-abortion votes.” Criticizing Trump for advocating for the “will of the people,” Rose also stated, “It is not right for democratic societies to vote on the fundamental rights of unpopular minorities. There is no more unpopular minority today than preborn Americans.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • Fox News contributor Ben Domenech said that Trump is “at his best when he’s on offense” and that his abortion messaging was “problematic” because when the former president is on defense it “often includes him tying himself in knots.” “His statement, I think, doesn't actually leave more people satisfied. It leaves some pro-lifers disappointed,” Domenech argued. “I think that Democrats are going to continue their parade of lies about all of the things related to this issue, regardless of anything that he said. That's something that I think really could have been better crafted and better said in a way that could encourage people. He needs excited pro-life voters just as he had in 2020 like he delivered on his promises in 2024.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/9/24]
    • A Live Action article argued that Trump’s position “is not truly a pro-life.” “Atrocities against human beings shouldn’t be ‘regulated’ to allow only a certain amount of atrocity,” the article read. “The way society and political figures speak about preborn human beings reveals the fact that they don’t view them as full human beings deserving of human rights.” [Live Action, 4/9/24]
    • Anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson condemned Trump’s statement on X, arguing that “the only people ‘celebrating’ a pro-choice statement are people who don’t believe in protecting innocent children from abortion the moment of conception.” “We have got to stop listening to “leaders” who are willing to sell their soul for an election and/or “leaders” who still need education on the most important issue in our lifetime,” she posted. “If you don’t understand the significant damage abortion does to our society, then step aside.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • Speaking out against Trump’s abortion statement, Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander wrote, “If you want to lose an election, encourage single issue Christian voters to stay home while throwing a bone to femenazis.” He also stated he was “profoundly disappointed in Trump’s clumsy word choices,” and argued, “We’re not losing because women crave abortion. We’re losing because Republicans don’t believe Republicans should have a reason to vote.” [Telegram, 4/9/24]
  • Other conservative media personalities supported Trump, arguing that his abortion stance was a political necessity and that he needed to appear more moderate to win the election

    • Fox & Friends co-host Lawrence Jones defended Trump, arguing, “I don't think the former president has to prove his pro-life chops after what he was able to accomplish with the Supreme Court. I think his core argument is about winning.” He continued, “If you’re losing elections, are you really winning the life issue?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/8/24]
    • Appearing on America’s Newsroom, National Review editor Rich Lowry stated, “He's signaled for a long time [that] he doesn't think this is a winning issue for Republicans. He’d prefer not to fight on it. So this is yet another sign, Dana, of how on the defensive Republicans are.” Lowry went on, arguing that Trump “doesn’t want to even take a position as to whether there should be a federal ban or where you draw the line on that. He wants to punt it to the states.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 4/8/24]
    • Fox host Sean Hannity also backed Trump, calling a total ban on abortion “political suicide” and stating, “If you’re going to take that extreme position, you are going to lose votes.” He said, “Any Republican that would take a position [of] no exceptions for rape, incest or the mother's life, that is political suicide. Any Republican that calls for a flat-out ban, politically — I’m talking politically now — that would be outright suicide. But I'll tell you one thing, and this is admonition for any conservative or any Republican running, is that is: If you're going to take that extreme position, you are going to lose votes.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/8/24
    • Fox contributor Charlie Hurt said Trump’s statement was “a very smart move by him, he’s pointing out that this is an issue that needs to be resolved as close to voters as you can get.” Hurt went on, “So legislation coming from state governments is going to make a whole lot more sense than the idea that you will have nine men in black robes on the Supreme Court declare for 50 years that there is some abortion right — some constitutional right to abortion — which never existed in the Constitution except by fiat.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 4/8/24]
    • Conservative pundit Bill Mitchell posted, “This was the ONLY position Trump could take and hope to win in November. He just brilliantly took away the Democrats #1 issue!” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • Daily Wire host Ben Shapiro acknowledged that it was “smart politics” for Trump to take a moderate stance on abortion. Shapiro said that Trump taking abortion “off the table” as “the No. 1 issue the Democrats are going to run on with regards to, say, suburban women” is “smart politics from him, but beside the morality of it, because politics is not always moral, that is in fact the smart move. … Politically, not morally, that is smart Trump.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show, 4/8/24]
    • Newsmax host Eric Bolling stated that Trump's stance on abortion is “the only answer for a conservative if you want to win an election.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling the Balance, 4/8/24]
    • Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich argued that Trump “is trying to create the best possible environment in the current culture and in the current laws.” Gingrich stated, “He is trying to reach the largest possible number of babies saved. He's trying to create the best possible environment in the current culture and in the current laws, and he's doing it in a way which is extraordinarily pro-life without alienating people with a kind of fearmongering the Democrats have.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/8/24]
    • During a Fox appearance, OutKick host Tomi Lahren argued that Republicans running for office “should take the issue to where Donald Trump has taken it and say this is a states’ right issue.” She said that “the Democrats have something once again that we don't have and they have a cohesion and unity on their side, the Republican Party on this issue, unfortunately, does not.” She went on, “Now I’m not saying that every conservative and every Republican has to have the same personal feelings on the issue but every Republican if you want to win in November should take the issue to where Donald Trump has taken it and say this is a states’ right issue.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/8/24]
    • Washington Examiner editor Kaylee McGhee White said, “I do believe Trump is right on this” because she is “also a pragmatist.” She said, “It would be far better for the pro-life movement to elect literally any Republican than it would be to elect a Democrat who will not hesitate to codify a radical abortion regime that would make even socialist Europe blush.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 4/8/24]
    • As a guest on War Room, Human Events senior editor Jack Posobiec claimed that America is “not interested in these widespread bans.” “We’re here for, signal not noise, and the signal is that these widespread abortion bans  in state after state after state that have gone up, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, have gone down in flames.” He continued, “America is responding that this is something that, particularly on the state level, that they are not interested in these widespread bans. President Trump kicking it to the states and saying, look. The states can vote as was intended under the Constitution, which, by the way, was the policy of the Republican Party for 50 years." [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 4/8/24]
    • In response to Trump’s abortion statement, anti-abortion advocacy group CatholicVote released a statement that affirmed its confidence “that a Trump administration will be staffed with pro-life personnel committed to pro-life policies.” The statement continued: “The contrast between Joe Biden and the Democrats and President Trump is unmistakable. Pro-life voters have only one option in November.” [Twitter/X, 4/8/24]
    • Defrocked anti-abortion pastor Frank Pavone wrote a guest piece for LifeNews in which he emphasized his support for Trump because “ending abortion begins with getting rid of pro-abortion radical Joe Biden.” Pavone asserted that the “culture of life” can be preserved “by saving the nation itself from destruction by Democrats.” [LifeNews, 4/8/24]
    • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh said Trump would be “essentially forfeiting the election” to Biden if he came out in support of a federal abortion ban because “most Americans support some form of child murder.” “All of the available evidence points to the fact that my own position [on abortion] is not popular enough to get somebody elected to national office,” Walsh said. “In this case, I’ll take the most pro-life outcome that I can possibly get.” He added that he would accept an “incremental victory, provided that it is an incremental victory and not the end point.” [The Daily Wire, The Matt Walsh Show, 4/9/24]