Reproductive Rights Organizations Call Out PBS For Giving Anti-Choice Extremist A Town Hall Platform

Groups Call Inclusion Of Troy Newman In PBS Town Hall “Disappointing,” “Downright Frightening And Potentially Dangerous”

Following a showing of the pro-gun-safety documentary “The Armor of Light” on May 10, PBS is airing a town hall discussion on guns and faith including known anti-choice extremist Troy Newman.

In response, a number of reproductive rights organizations have criticized PBS for giving a national platform to Newman, who is best known for his ties to extreme anti-choice groups and history of harassing abortion providers with violent rhetoric.

Reproaction, a “direct action group” fighting to increase abortion access and advancing reproductive justice, said in a statement on its website, “It is incredibly disappointing that PBS would give a man whose organization has terrorized abortion providers a platform for anything, much less to support gun rights with no restrictions.” Reproaction further detailed Newman’s history of anti-choice activism and criticized PBS for giving “a terrorist whose rhetoric has spawned violence against abortion providers ... a national platform to state an extremist view on guns.”

There has been an unprecedented uptick in anti-choice violence since David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) – of which Newman was a board member -- released their deceptively edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood. The videos constituted a smear campaign so fraudulent it earned CMP the title of Media Matters2015 Misinformer of the Year.

Citing this increased threat to abortion providers and clinics, Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, criticized PBS in a statement sent to Media Matters. She wrote that giving “Newman this platform to advocate for the carrying of guns is not only irresponsible, it is downright frightening and potentially dangerous.”

Smeal noted that Newman was an especially inappropriate choice given his defense of other anti-choice extremists who have murdered abortion providers. For example, in discussing the 2003 execution of Paul Hill for murdering Dr. John Bayard Britton and his clinic escort, Newman argued “that ‘there are many examples of where taking the life in defense of human beings is legally justified and permissible under the law.’”

Karin Roland, chief campaigns officer at UltraViolet, also pointed to Newman’s “long history of anti-choice extremism” and defense of violence against abortion providers as reasons PBS should have excluded him from the panel. She told Media Matters that “by giving Newman a platform, on a panel about gun violence in America no less, PBS is providing Newman with an opportunity to whitewash his history of extremism and violence.”

According to Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, “Troy Newman is a man who believes that the murder of abortion providers can be a justifiable action.” She wrote, “Despite these horrifying facts, PBS still chose to include him in its town hall about how we tackle the epidemic of gun violence in this country.” In her statement to Media Matters, Bruce concluded that “PBS should be ashamed of itself for giving weight to Troy Newman's dangerous opinions."