Latest Fox News abortion freakout shows why Democrats cannot trust the network

Fox News is -- once again -- trying to claim that Democrats are “extreme” on abortion


Citation Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Fox News jumped on comments made by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about an upcoming Supreme Court decision as an opportunity to bash Democrats as “fanatic” and overly zealous in their support of abortion rights. Fox News has spread an absurd number of sensationalized, inaccurate narratives about abortion — and this latest freakout over Schumer’s comments demonstrates that Democrats choosing to appear on the network should not expect different going forward.

Schumer made the comments during an abortion rights rally in front of the Supreme Court the day it was hearing arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo -- a case about an anti-abortion Louisiana law that could result in closure of abortion clinics in the state. Referring to Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh (both appointed by President Donald Trump), Schumer said, “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Fox News coalesced its messaging on Schumer’s comments as a narrative about Democratic “extremism” on abortion -- a strategy to benefit Trump and Republicans in the 2020 election. In early 2019, Fox News began promoting ludicrous and false claims that Democratic support for abortion rights was “extreme” and amounted to advocating for “infanticide.” Schumer’s remarks prompted Fox News to return to this narrative with an overload of vitriol.

On Fox & Friends, co-host Pete Hegseth asked, “When it comes to abortion, that’s a special case for Democrats, right? There’s a reason you see this much passion from him on that topic. Why is the idea of keeping abortion as broad and legal as possible -- why is it an obsession of the left?” Fox & Friends also gave Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) a platform to baselessly assert that Schumer “wants the Supreme Court to uphold unlimited abortion on demand in every circumstance with no limitations whatsoever.”

Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich alleged the rally attendees “were fanatically committed to the maximum opportunity to kill children” and that Democratic politicians who are Catholic “are basically pro-infanticide.” Gingrich specifically made a claim about Democratic appeal to voters with a false premise about the party’s support for abortion rights policies:

NEWT GINGRICH: Most of the country, most Americans, do not think that abortion in the seventh, eighth, and ninth month or killing the baby after it's born, … they don't think that's acceptable, moral, or legitimate, and that's a real challenge for the Democrats because they are increasingly fanatic on this issue.

Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Jedediah Bila also connected the outrage over Schumer’s comments and the rally in general to voters, saying that the “abortion rights rally was vile in many respects” and that “people who still believe that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare ... are going to watch this stuff and really be turned off.”

On The Ingraham Angle, guest host Raymond Arroyo said that Schumer’s comments should prompt Senate Republicans to “make a really big deal of it” and “tell the voters that Democrats are willing to destroy the entire court in order to save Roe.” Further, Arroyo claimed, “The Democrats, even the so-called moderates, are of one mind when it comes to abortion: no limitations, no restrictions.”

Fox News’ allegations about Democratic support for abortion access are dishonest at best and damaging or dangerous at worst. The network will continue its push to convince its viewers that Democrats are too “extreme” to be elected, a strategy that has clearly been a part of right-wing media's playbook for covering abortion in the context of the 2020 election. Candidates who are willing to go on the network are going to feed this same inaccurate narrative and risk fueling more sensationalized news cycles uplifting anti-abortion disinformation meant to disenchant the very voters Democrats allege they are trying to reach.