After former President Donald Trump tried to distance himself from Republicans’ 2022 midterm upset by blaming messaging on abortion, right-wing media and anti-abortion activists split in their reactions to his incendiary remarks.
On New Year’s Day, Trump posted the following message on his social media platform Truth Social:
Trump’s comments come weeks after a predicted “red wave” of Republican advances in the House of Representatives and Senate never materialized and the majority of the candidates Trump endorsed in tight congressional races lost, including six out of seven key races his PAC boosted. Trump has rejected blame for the string of losses, saying it belongs to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). In his January 1 post, Trump pointed the finger at Republican candidates’ extreme anti-abortion positions, including opposition to exceptions to bans. Trump glossed over his contributions to the party’s midterm disappointments, which included nominating three of the Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of reversing Roe v. Wade, a decision opposed by most Americans. Trump has also frequently espoused extreme anti-abortion rhetoric, often parroting misguided right-wing misinformation about reproductive health and embracing anti-abortion extremists.
While some anti-abortion activists have decried Trump, conservative media figures have had varied reactions: Some agreed with Trump’s analysis, others called on Republicans to abandon Trump’s 2024 campaign, and a few minimized Trump’s comments as attention-seeking or hypocritical:
Supporting Trump’s comments
- On the January 3 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co, Fox News contributor Charles Hurt said, “I think he [Trump] is right about Mitch McConnell. … And without a doubt, you know, the issue of abortion did hurt Republicans.” Hurt disagreed with Trump’s condemnation of anti-abortion voters, saying that “claiming that they stayed home because they got what they want is a really, really stupid thing to say.”
- Jenna Ellis Show podcast host Jenna Ellis tweeted on January 2, “Donald Trump is not a fraudulent pro-lifer. He has been the most stalwart pro-life president since Roe v. Wade and it was because of his SCOTUS appointments that this unconstitutional decision was finally rightly overturned. He simply hates losing, and calls it as he sees it.”
- Former member of Congress and Newsmax contributor Michael Grimm disregarded the backlash against Trump’s statement as another strategy to blame the former president, saying on January 2, “I don't think that the Republican Party backed those candidates when they should have, even though they were within the margin of error. They left them hanging out to dry. … So of course, if they can point the finger and blame someone else, that's number one, they will. But if they can blame Trump, whom the establishment does not like at all and does not want to see come back, that's a twofer.”
Criticizing Trump as self-interested and hypocritical
- Washington Examiner contributor Kimberly Ross tweeted on January 2, “Don’t ever apologize for prioritizing the abortion issue. As usual, Donald Trump is most concerned about himself and his ego. Always has been. He is quite literally a loser (electoral and otherwise) and needs to go away.”
- A RedState article called out Trump for his remarks, claiming on January 1, “Whether one thinks Trump is right or wrong on this point, saying what he said serves no purpose. Who is he reaching on Truth Social? Why does he even feel the need to defend himself about the mid-terms? If anything, he’s just drawing attention to his own failures.”
- On PJ Media, anti-Muslim extremist and right-wing blogger Robert Spencer attempted to dispute Trump’s claims of poor Republican messaging around abortion by writing, “It would be reasonable to think that any candidate responsible for such an achievement would run on it, and run on it hard, but Trump is busy running the other way." The piece went on to say that though Trump claimed the “abortion issue” was “poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters,” there were "no such candidates in the 2022 midterms.”
- Right-wing writer Pedro Gonzalez tweeted, “It’s not the debate over abortion itself that’s going to upset people about Trump’s statement at this point, but rather it’s that he previously explicitly took credit for end of Roe v. Wade—he called it ‘the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation.’"
Advocating for Republicans abandoning Trump or predicting they will
- Right-wing writer Tom Joyce said anti-abortion voters should abandon Trump, writing in the Washington Examiner on January 3, “Putting on the Supreme Court three pro-life justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade was Trump’s greatest achievement as president . But if he wants to be a coward, run away from that impressive record, and bash pro-lifers, add that to the long list of reasons why he deserves to lose the 2024 Republican primary.”
- On January 1, BlazeTV host Steve Deace called Trump’s comment “self-immolation in real time” and continued in a January 2 tweet, "This analysis from Trump isn't even correct btw. GOP base (pro-life) voters turned out massively in November. GOP actually won the national generic ballot slightly more than the RCP Polling Average projected.”
- Fox contributor Ben Domenech posted a seven-part Twitter thread on January 1 critiquing Trump’s comment and asserting that it was “hard to express how many false things Trump says in this one ‘Truth’" and that “Trump betraying the pro-life cause on Dobbs has been telegraphed for a long time and is a huge opening to bash him in the 2024 stakes which I expect several candidates to seize.”
- On the January 2 edition of The Alex Jones Show, host Owen Shroyer questioned whether Trump is “flailing, desperate for attention almost.” Shroyer addressed Trump directly, asserting, “You got screwed by Mitch McConnell. And we all know what happened in Maricopa County. And we all know what happened in Georgia, not just in the last midterm elections, but in 2020 as well.” Shroyer closed out his monologue by saying, “There’s your Republican leadership flailing in the wind, flopping around, desperate for some sort of traction.”
Anti-abortion figures denouncing Trump’s comments
- Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America published a press release on January 2 in response to Trump’s statement, saying, “The approach to winning on abortion in federal races, proven for a decade is this: state clearly the ambitious consensus pro-life position and contrast that with the extreme view of Democrat opponents. We look forward to hearing that position fully articulated by Mr. Trump and all presidential candidates. There was ALSO a profound midterm lesson for future federal candidates: those who adopt the Ostrich Strategy on abortion lose.”
- LiveAction founder and President Lila Rose tweeted the same day, “Trump is way out of line here on life. He does not have a pulse on where his potential base is -- as many believed he has in the past. This kind of nonsense will be a losing political strategy for him.”
- Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins tweeted, “President Trump seems to disagree with @RonDeSantisFL and I that it's important to value all children, no matter how they were conceived. The courage to defend the vulnerable is a sign of leadership.” In a separate tweet, Hawkins wrote: “Former President Trump needs to be corrected on his statement about pro-lifers and the outcome of 2022 elections. This November, leaders like Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Ted Budd, and Sen. Marco Rubio, who proudly talked about their pro-life convictions, won in landslides.”