Fox News attempts to rehabilitate its ratings by returning to tirades against abortion

Fox attacked Biden for being a pro-choice Catholic and hyped a former NFL player's anti-abortion film

Screencap of a Fox News @ Night segment

As Fox News continues to bleed viewers with former President Donald Trump out of office, the network is courting their return by airing its usual anti-abortion misinformation and launching attacks on pro-choice Catholics in office.

In January, Fox News experienced “its worst month” for television ratings in nearly 21 years, falling behind CNN and MSNBC for the first time since April 2020. As the Independent’s Joe Sommerlad wrote, Fox News “struggled to find substantial attacks on the incoming Biden administration” in January. Instead, the network and its crew of supposed “news” and opinion anchors have pandered to the extremist elements of the Republican Party by pushing issues-based misinformation, such as on abortion.

Fox News’ past abortion-related coverage has centered on false claims about Democrats supporting “infanticide” in their support for abortion rights and misinformation on Planned Parenthood, federal funding for abortion, and other extreme and false rhetoric. With its ratings in a nosedive, Fox News brought its abortion coverage back with a vengeance, focusing again on personal attacks and misinformation.

For example, despite their supposed displeasure with what they perceive as faith-based attacks on then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Fox News anchors and guests have repeatedly assailed Democrats like President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for being Catholic and supportive of legislation protecting and expanding abortion rights. On Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth asked his guest, “Why is it so many prominent Democrat politicians, Catholics, are comfortable holding that disconnect? What is it about this issue that they're happy to disregard their faith when it pertains to abortion?”

On Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight -- which was later canceled after voting software company Smartmatic sued Dobbs -- Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress invoked Biden's faith to attack him for rescinding the global gag rule. (The global gag rule is an anti-abortion restriction banning the U.S. from providing foreign aid to nongovernmental organizations that privately fund or promote abortion care.) Jeffress said, “You can't be in church on Sunday saying Jesus loves the little children of the world and on Thursday be in the Oval Office signing a death warrant for millions of unborn children around the world.”

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Citation From the January 29, 2021, edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight

Similarly, on The Ingraham Angle, Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo talked about Biden’s faith and White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s answer on Biden’s global gag rule executive order and joked, “It’s a wonder there wasn’t a flash of lightning in the press room.”

Fox News anchor Shannon Bream and her show Fox News @ Night -- a reliable source of anti-abortion misinformation -- repeatedly promoted this narrative, with at least three segments with mentions or direct attacks on Biden or Pelosi’s faith and their support for abortion access. On Fox News @ Night’s January 26 episode, Bream even hosted a whole segment on the topic with the archbishop of San Francisco, who claimed Pelosi is “misleading Catholics into thinking that they can be good Catholics and acceptable to favor abortion, but let's face it, abortion is just blatantly evil.”

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Citation From the January 26, 2021, edition of Fox News @ Night

Fox News has also reupped the “infanticide” lies, with Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claiming on January 25 that Biden supports policies allowing abortions “one minute before you give birth to this baby, all the way to the end of the pregnancy, which is just gut-wrenching.” Fox contributor Jonathan Morris alleged that Biden supports legal abortion access because Democrats pressured him to agree with "abortion on demand until even after birth.”

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Citation From the January 21, 2021, edition of America's Newsroom

Fox News has also relied on a former NFL player for several segments related to abortion. Benjamin Watson appeared on at least three shows -- Fox & Friends, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Fox News @ Night -- to criticize Biden and other Democrats for support for abortion access. Watson’s supposed expertise on abortion allegedly comes from an anti-abortion documentary he made, which is coming out an unspecified date. Fox News’ repeated dependence on Watson and his movie is not surprising, as the network gave the anti-abortion movie Unplanned over a million dollars' worth of free promotion in 2019.

Fox News is pursuing its lost viewers with a blatant strategy of attacking Catholic Democrats for being pro-choice, imagining fantastical scenarios where abortions happen one second before birth, and bringing in a former NFL player to shill his anti-abortion project. Things are certainly not going well over at the network.