Media Matters' Sharon Kann discusses Fox News' domination of abortion conversations on SiriusXM's The Thom Hartmann Program

Right Wing Lies on Abortion-Thom talks with Media Matters' Sharon Kann

Audio file

On the September 24 edition of SiriusXM's The Thom Harmann Program, Media Matters’ Sharon Kann discussed a new study which found that CNN and MSNBC allow Fox News to dominate abortion conversations with dangerous misinformation:

THOM HARTMANN (HOST): So tell us about -- what are the lies or misinformation, or, you know, phrases that tend to mislead or however you would characterize them, that Fox News is dropping into our media pond? And which of them are being picked up by CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets and recycled in ways that are ultimately destructive to women’s reproductive rights?

SHARON KANN: Yeah, I mean I think that you sort of pointed out the overall topline of the study we just released which is that, Fox News is dominating the conversation about abortion and unfortunately the talking points are making their way to lots of different places including CNN and MSNBC at times. Our study looked at a couple of different types of misinformation but I think the most significant one that we saw this year was misinformation about different types of abortion procedures or access to abortion. This spiked especially around the beginning of this year, 2019, around state measures to protect or to codify abortion access in New York and Virginia. Where we saw, you know, lots of sensationalized talking points about “infanticide” or about abortion later in pregnancy that then got taken up, not just in the State of the Union by Donald Trump but also when they were talked about on networks like CNN and MSNBC, people didn’t hear the other side as much as I think they needed to, to debunk that harmful, stigmatizing misinformation. 

Kann further explained how outlets like CNN and MSNBC can contribute to the spread of misinformation when they do not refute inaccurate right-wing media talking points:

HARTMANN: How does MSNBC and CNN serve as an echo-chamber when they, I’m guessing, they don’t intend to?  

KANN: Right, I think a really good example of that would be once the conversation shifted to a political one about later abortion there would be examples of segments on CNN and MSNBC where they would say, you know, “conservatives are very angry about allegations of ‘infanticide.’” Period. There would never be an additional statement saying, “and that’s an inaccurate representation of later abortion,” or “here are statistics about how later abortion is” or “here’s the context on the comments.”

HARTMANN: Or, how about: that’s a lie! It’s against the law to kill children. Infanticide is killing babies, it’s literally against the law. It doesn’t happen. 

KANN: Right. I mean, I think that’s another good example of when abortion is only discussed as a question of politics or optics and not as a question of health care.

In closing, Kann emphasized the importance of outlets accurately reporting on abortion-related issues by supplying a “holistic picture” of abortion access and not just reiterating sensationalized right-wing rhetoric:

HARTMAN: I’m assuming that what you’re trying to do is to not just push back on the lies that regularly come out of Fox News, I mean we kind of expect that. But also to sensitize CNN and MSNBC to the way that they’re being exploited by Fox News? Any indication, A: is that one of your goals? And B: whether it is or isn’t, any indication that that might be succeeding, that you might be having some impact in that regard? 

KANN: Yeah, I think that it is important for networks that -- I mean, part of the problem is that Fox is so loud in this conversation. And so when CNN and MSNBC are having conversations about abortion oftentimes the terms have already been set before the stories even get to those networks. So I think that is a framework of something that is important for us to make sure that reporters, viewers, and everyone understands. The second thing, is to make sure that when reporting on abortion-related issues people are providing adequate context. Whether that’s calling out a lie for a lie or whether that’s making sure that there are enough statistics or information to make sure that people are getting a holistic picture of what abortion access is like and not just the sensationalized right-wing media talking point.