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  • Right-wing media melt down over Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's comments about pro-choice judges

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) spoke about her commitment to nominate only pro-choice judges to the Supreme Court if she became president, right-wing media responded by leveling personal attacks against Gillibrand and by alleging she was trying to censure abortion opponents.

    On June 10, The Des Moines Register asked Gillibrand about her proposal to nominate only those judges to the Supreme Court who would vow to uphold Roe v. Wade, questioning whether “imposing a litmus test” would be “seen as an encroachment on judicial independence.” Gillibrand responded:

    I think there’s some issues that have such moral clarity that we have, as a society, decided that the other side is not acceptable. Imagine saying that it’s OK to appoint a judge who’s racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic. Telling -- asking someone to appoint someone who takes away basic human rights of any group of people in America, I think that we are, we’ve -- I don’t think those are political issues anymore.

    And we believe in this country in the separation of church and state, and I respect the rights of every American to hold their religious beliefs true to themselves. But our country and our Constitution has always demanded that we have a separation of church and state. And all these efforts by President Trump and other ultra radical conservative judges and justices to impose their faith on Americans is contrary to our Constitution, and that’s what it is.

    And so, I believe that for all of these issues -- they are not issues that there is a fair other side. There is no moral equivalency when you come to racism. And I do not believe there is a moral equivalency when it comes to changing laws that deny women reproductive freedom.

    Gillibrand later reiterated her position during an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, explaining that her statement “had nothing to do with” the personal views of abortion opponents, but it was rather about the importance of appointing judges who support the “settled precedent” established in Roe. She concluded: “The question and my answer was specific to what kind of judges I would appoint.” Still, right-wing media responded with vitriol, saying that her comments were "shocking and stunning," that they were "just dumb and over the top," and that she was suggesting anti-choice people "should never be granted access to polite society." The meltdown is yet another example of right-wing media’s ongoing effort during the 2020 election cycle to characterize Democrats’ support for abortion rights as “extreme.”

    Right-wing media had a meltdown over Gillibrand’s comments

    • On Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum, Fox News contributor Charlie Hurt said he didn’t know whether Gillibrand is “evil or ignorant,” but that he felt comparing anti-choice views with racist views was “just absolutely shocking and stunning.”
    • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs attacked Gillibrand, asking, “Has she taken complete leave of her remaining senses?”
    • On Fox Business’ Trish Regan Primetime, guest host Gregg Jarrett characterized Gillibrand’s comments as calling someone “a racist … if you happen to be pro-life.” He continued that this was “a stupid, idiotic comparison” and claimed her comments were “just dumb and over the top.” He concluded, “If you had any doubt that Kirsten Gillibrand is obtuse on her best day, she removed all doubt.”
    • On his program, Tucker Carlson claimed that Gillibrand was equating holding anti-abortion views as being “on par with racists, maybe even the Nazis.” Carlson’s guest Lila Rose, the founder and president of the anti-abortion group Live Action, said, “This idea that it's not even justified to have the pro-life position -- you're even a racist. I mean, that term is just thrown around today. But saying that you're even a racist to be pro-life -- half of America is pro-life.”
    • Fox host Sean Hannity named Gillibrand “Villain of the Day” because of her comments.
    • Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said on his No Spin News show that Gillibrand’s comments demonstrated that she was “a dangerous person” and “a demagogue.” He continued that “Gillibrand is basically saying as a sitting senator, all the pro-life people in America are not supposed to be heard. You shut up because you’re just like a racist. How vile is this? Now that should disqualify the woman from public office.”
    • National Review called Gillibrand’s comments “more sinister than pandering” and characterized them as “irresponsible, malicious rhetoric.”
    • The Washington Times claimed that Gillibrand was “demonizing millions of pro-life citizens” with her comments.
    • Townhall accused Gillibrand of being “desperate to score some political points amongst the progressive base in hopes of boosting her ranking from dead-last in the presidential primary.”

    Other outlets published opinion pieces echoing right-wing media’s attacks and allegations

    • Philip Boas, the editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic, claimed in an opinion piece that Gillibrand’s comments “revealed her authoritarian instincts.” He wrote:

    Gillibrand added that opposition to abortion should be regarded in the same way we regard racism. In other words, critics of abortion need to be banished from the public square. They need to be treated with all the loathing and disdain we reserve for racial bigots.

    They should never be granted access to polite society. Never hold corporate jobs. Never rise to any position of legitimate authority. They should be shunned and ignored and otherwise marginalized – made so radioactive that their views are no longer to be considered. Only condemned.

    And that especially goes for federal judges one suspects may harbor anti-abortion views.

    • Syndicated columnist Michael Gerson wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post saying, “Few would accuse [Gillibrand] of seriousness in her presidential run.” He characterized Gillibrand’s comments as saying that, “pro-life people are not only wrong; they are bigoted theocrats who threaten democracy.”
    • In The Chicago Tribune, columnist John Kass summarized Gillibrand’s comments as her saying that “if you oppose abortion, then you’re equivalent to a racist” and that these views reflected the Democratic Party writ large because “her bigotry was met with silence. And silence is consent.” Kass also wrote, “In her world, babies don’t have rights. Even thinking of them as human would get in the way of politics that grant power to those who would end their lives.”
  • Right-wing media use Parkland school shooting to rail against abortion

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update: This piece has been updated to include additional examples.

    On February 14, after a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, left 17 dead, right-wing and anti-abortion media made outlandish comparisons between gun regulation and abortion restrictions, as well as comparing the National Rifle Association (NRA) to Planned Parenthood.

    • Peggy Noonan, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, compared the debate around gun violence prevention policies following the Parkland shooting to calls from the anti-abortion movement to restrict access to abortions after 20 weeks. Noonan claimed, “On gun law, Republicans oppose banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, the one the Parkland shooter used, because of the numbers, power and contributions of gun owners and the NRA. Democrats oppose banning late-term abortion because of the numbers, power and contributions of the rising left, feminists and Planned Parenthood.” Noonan argued that lawmakers should “trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure. In both cases the lives of children would be saved.”
    • After Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that gun regulation is needed because Americans cannot stand by while “our babies are being slaughtered,” The Western Journal -- which is known to peddle fake news -- highlighted conservatives on Twitter who “were quick to point out the glaring hypocrisy in her statements, suggesting that one cannot decry the deaths of babies while being such a strong advocate for the practice of abortion,” including actor James Woods’ tweet:

    • The Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson similarly attacked Harris with an article titled “Pro-Abortion Senator Horrified About ‘Slaughter of Babies.’”

    • RedState’s Josh Kimbrell wrote, “It is a contradiction in political philosophy to promote Planned Parenthood while accusing gun rights advocates of being against life.” Kimbrell claimed that while Planned Parenthood “is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every single year,” the NRA “does not advocate gun violence or promote a culture of death.” Instead, Kimbrell argued, the NRA “provides excellent gun safety training resources to all ages.”
    • During a February 22 appearance on Fox News @ Night, Townhall's Guy Benson talked about the supposed media bias of outlets reporting on the NRA’s political donations but not covering donations from Planned Parenthood’s political arm. He was referring to a Senate vote against a ban on abortions at 20 weeks:

    GUY BENSON: CNN, one of our rival networks, tweeted out a list of the Republicans who had voted no, with a list of their ratings from the NRA, and people were highlighting how much money they had taken from the NRA. And that type of coverage simply did not exist with the Democrats and Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby when they voted for a life-and-death issue against the strong wishes of the American people. And, to me, that dichotomy is striking and unavoidable.

    • On the February 21 edition of One America News Network’s Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, host Liz Wheeler also compared donations from the NRA and Planned Parenthood. Wheeler said that not only was it a “hideous lie” that the “NRA buys off politicians in an effort to push a pro-gun agenda that costs the lives of millions of children,” but also that it was “ironic because liberals have no problem with another organization that also donates to politicians and actually does kill millions of children -- Planned Parenthood.”
    • Writing for Townhall, conservative blogger Erick Erickson also compared Planned Parenthood to the NRA, saying that “elite opinion makers in America champion Planned Parenthood, which actually does kill thousands of children each year, while savaging the National Rifle Association, which has never killed a child and whose members have actually saved others' lives.”
    • Christian Schneider, an opinion columnist at USA Today, wrote that the “double standard” of media coverage could be summed up as: “When Democrats work on behalf of a special interest that aborts millions of children, they are doing so from a place of conscience and ideological purity. When Republicans argue in favor of Second Amendment rights, it is because they have been bought off by a disfavored lobbying group looking to profit from carnage.” Schneider explained that this “double standard” is a “cynical ploy that only devalues Congress in the voters’ eyes. And it is especially destructive when applied only to one party.”
    • Fox News’ Laura Ingraham used the high schools students who survived the Parkland shooting and have been calling for gun safety policies to make a comparison to media coverage of the anti-abortion March for Life. On the February 20 edition of her Fox News show, The Ingraham Angle, Ingraham said that “the media has a little double standard problem here” because of what she deemed under-coverage of the March for Life. She claimed that “18- to 34-year-olds were the second most likely age group to oppose” abortions after 20 weeks -- a statistic the media should think more critically about before reporting -- and said the media should “give those kids some mention as well and maybe a little empathy, or at least a little fair coverage. That would be nice. The kids count? Well, that means all of their views.”
    • Tucker Carlson made a similar comparison to the March for Life on the February 21 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. Carlson said that “thousands of other children come to Washington for the March [for] Life,” and that “like the kids from Parkland, they’re against killing.” Carlson also questioned the media response to the March for Life in comparison to coverage of the Parkland shooting, asking, “Do the media hold these kids up as the last word on the subject? Do they attack anyone who questions them? Please. A lot of news outlets don't even bother to cover that march at all.”

    Other outlets promoted similar talking points comparing abortion restrictions and gun regulation

    • On the February 20 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Time magazine’s Michael Duffy and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell praised Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column in which she called for a “trade” between banning assault weapons and restricting abortion after 20 weeks:

    MICHAEL DUFFY: Science is chasing politics in both those cases. And Peggy Noonan wrote a really interesting column on Saturday, I think, where she said --

    ANDREA MITCHELL: It’s a wonderful column.

    DUFFY: -- where she said -- she had a proposal at the end that was shocking at first when you read it that basically said the right should give on late-term abortion -- I'm sorry, the left --

    MITCHELL: The left, exactly.

    DUFFY: -- should give on late-term abortion and the right should give on some of these gun restrictions, particularly with respect to assault weapons. And that that’s a vote, she said, for life in general. And she cited young people as a changed political factor.

    MITCHELL: I'm glad you mentioned that, Mike. Because she is ahead of the curve in all of these cultural issues, I think, Peggy has a unique sensibility. And --

    DUFFY: It was an interesting trade up.

    • In a column for the Chicago Tribune, John Kass made an argument similar to Noonan’s. He argued that Republicans can call for “gun-violence restraining orders” and Democrats can agree to support a ban on abortion after 20-weeks as both "common sense" compromises.

    The comparison also spread to social media and message boards

    • On Reddit, the “r/The_Donald” forum featured several threads touting right-wing media’s comparisons between Planned Parenthood and NRA or abortion with guns. The titles of these threads included “If You Want To Take My Guns, I Want To Take Your Abortions That Kill 300,000 Children A Year” and “2017 killing statistics. Planned Parenthood: 328,348. NRA members: 0." Some of these threads drew significant engagement from users:

    UPDATE: Right-wing media continued using the Parkland shooting to attack Planned Parenthood and abortion rights

    • Radio host Michael Graham wrote for The Federalist that politicians who claim to be personally opposed to abortion, but vote for pro-choice policies are “too timid to vote” for abortion restrictions “because Planned Parenthood is the NRA of the Democratic Party. Only worse.” Planned Parenthood is worse, Graham said, because although some Republicans support gun regulation, no Democrat supports abortion restrictions “because Planned Parenthood and its allies wouldn’t let it happen.” Graham further argued that “Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby are proof that you don’t need a gun to be a bully.”
    • National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis compared outrage over politicians taking donations from the NRA to what she perceived as a media silence about politicians taking donations from Planned Parenthood, noting that “mainstream outlets” never “point to the campaign contributions that Democratic politicians accept from Planned Parenthood and its close cousin NARAL.” DeSanctis stated, “If the Left and its friends in the media truly cared about the influence of ‘dark money,’ they would bother to report this information about Planned Parenthood.”
    • On the March 1 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson asked Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), “What would drive a 19-year-old to want to murder strangers?” In response, Duffy partly blamed abortion, saying, “We dehumanize life in those video games, in those movies, and with abortion.”
    • Duffy returned to Fox News during the March 2 edition of The Ingraham Angle, where Duffy and host Laura Ingraham repeatedly claimed that calling out Planned Parenthood instead of the NRA made more sense to them. Ingraham stated, “If we're going to judge people based on an organization’s blood spilled, well, I hope Planned Parenthood is going to lose all of its partnerships or affiliations, given the fact that we have about 57 million babies who never got to see the light of day.” Duffy agreed, saying, “If you want to save kids' lives, I would look to the Democrat (sic) Party and Planned Parenthood and the left-wing media. And Planned Parenthood killed 300 of the most defenseless, voiceless, little babies last year alone.” After Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) wondered how the conversation moved to abortion and attempted to bring it back to gun regulation, Ingraham stated, “I thought it was pretty clear, but I'll explain it again if you’re confused. We're talking about the blood of children, innocent children who were gunned down in that school, and we're talking about the blood of the most innocent who are defenseless in the womb.”
    • On March 2, NRA TV contributor Dan Bongino claimed on Tucker Carlson Tonight that it is “so beyond stupid” to debate with liberals on gun regulations because, he said, liberals don’t support putting “any abortion laws on the books” as “they’ll all be ignored” anyway, but believe “gun laws, those will really work.” Host Tucker Carlson agreed with Bongino’s argument, saying that for liberals, “abortion, which is not mentioned in the Constitution is the beating heart of our constitutional rights.”
    • Fox contributor David Bossie argued on the March 2 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino that “it's interesting that people want to protect Planned Parenthood by killing babies on one hand and, on the other hand, they want to take guns away.”
    • During the March 4 edition of Fox and Friends Weekend, conservative radio host Kathy Barnette said, “Tragically Nikolas Cruz killed 17 little souls on that day, but Planned Parenthood kills over 800 babies on a daily basis, and where is the moral outrage on that?” Host Rachel Campos-Duffy replied, “Absolutely.”
  • Myths and Facts About Affirmative Action, Higher Education, And The Constitution

    ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    Affirmative action policies that will come before the Supreme Court in the upcoming Fisher v. University of Texas case have long been the target of right-wing misinformation that distort the benefits of diversity in higher education. Contrary to the conservative narrative in the media, these admissions processes serve important national interests by promoting equal opportunity and are based on long-standing law.

  • On The Radio Factor, Chicago Trib.'s Kass falsely claimed Rezko's wife "b[ought] the Obama dream house"

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    On The Radio Factor, John Kass falsely claimed that Rita Rezko, wife of Antoin Rezko, "b[ought] the Obama dream house" in what Kass called "that shady real estate deal." In addition, Kass, who was also featured on ABC's World News and the CBS Evening News in reports about the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, suggested to Bill O'Reilly that President-elect Barack Obama must be tainted by corruption because he comes from Chicago.

  • Chicago Tribune's Kass affirmed Beck's baseless and false claims about Obama

    ››› ››› KIRSTIN ELLISON

    Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass sat by as Glenn Beck repeated a baseless claim in Kass' column and added a falsehood of his own regarding Barack Obama's house purchase in Chicago. Beck repeated Kass' claim that Obama received "a $300,000 discount" on the purchase of his Chicago home and falsely asserted that indicted businessman Antoin Rezko "bought the property next door at $300,000 more." Kass did not dispute either assertion.