On Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox's Marc Thiessen defends anti-abortion laws with no exceptions for rape
Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
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“What do people not understand about he's a little bit different than most people?”
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Right-wing media and anti-abortion figures recently raised objections to a "horrible new ad” attributed to Planned Parenthood -- despite the so-called ad actually being a 2015 video from a political action committee, not Planned Parenthood. However, as conservative figures continued to express shock and disgust, people on social media started to make threats of violence against the health care organization citing shares of the 2015 video online. This isn’t the first time that right-wing media have manufactured outrage that resulted in harassment and threats toward abortion providers, patients, and clinics.
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Secretary of State Pompeo echoed right-wing media talking points on Trump’s toughness. In reality, Trump has undercut a number of actions Congress and his administration have tried to take against Russia.
Following President Donald Trump’s disastrous bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the president’s administration flacks and conservative media lackeys quickly scrambled to his defense, arguing that Trump has been “tough” in his “actions against Russia” and rattling off a series of actions he has taken since 2017 that supposedly support such a claim. The president himself and administration officials have also parroted the talking points in an attempt to dispel the idea that he is somehow in the pocket of the Russian government. But a closer look at the actions Trump shills have pointed to reveals a foreign policy that is more concerned with posturing for media than being “tough” in the face of Russian aggression.
On July 16, Trump met with Putin for a meeting behind closed doors in which no other American -- except an interpreter -- was present, and they emerged more than two hours later to give a wide-ranging press conference. When asked whether he holds the Russian government accountable for its multifaceted interference campaign during the 2016 elections, Trump repeatedly denied Russia’s involvement, saying, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia. (The president would later claim to have gotten “would” and “wouldn’t” confused.)
To counter the deluge of negative press in the wake of the meeting, right-wing media and administration officials pointed to various foreign policy and military responses to Russian aggression that the United States and its allies have undertaken during Trump’s presidency to argue that the president’s “actions” actually “have been tough.” About a week after the bilateral meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s conservative media defenders as he faced senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisting Trump “has taken a truckload of punitive actions against Moscow” and that he has been “tough on Russia” as president. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated the meme, as did the president himself.
Trump’s defenders have pointed to sanctions against Russia that were imposed under Trump, the American strikes against the Russian-backed Syrian regime in 2017 and 2018, the March 28 expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of a Russian consulate, Trump’s demands for other countries to increase their NATO spending, the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine to fend off the Russian military and rebels in the eastern portions of the country, and the pressure Trump put on German Chancellor Angela Merkel over a proposed natural gas pipeline from Russia, among other specific actions. But Trump’s defenders are not telling the full story behind these actions.
In the aftermath of Trump’s meeting with Putin, a number of the president’s defenders touted sanctions that were imposed against Russia as evidence of Trump’s clear-eyed approach with regard to Russia. But, not only were the sanctions drawn up and passed by Congress while the Trump administration loudly opposed the move, the administration also dragged its feet in implementing them, missing a deadline to begin the implementation and only taking action after Congress demanded it do so. Moreover, Trump left United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley out to dry by walking back, without explanation, an announcement she made regarding additional sanctions against Russia.
Additionally, one of the first official actions the Trump administration attempted was “to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election.” The effort to remove sanctions that were already on the books appeared to continue into Trump’s presidency, as one of his top fundraisers and former deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, Elliott Broidy, reportedly offered in 2017 to “help a Moscow-based lawyer get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.”
Right-wing media have also cited U.S. airstrikes conducted against the Syrian regime as evidence that Trump has stood up to Russian aggression. But, in 2017, Trump “notified Russia in advance of” the strike, “giving time for both Russian and Syrian forces to avoid casualties in an attack,” and by the very next day, Syrian warplanes were using the airfield that was targeted. Additionally, in 2018, the strikes Trump authorized against the Syrian regime targeted chemical weapons infrastructure, “and not the bases where the Russians and Iranians are.”
Trump’s defenders have also pointed to an American counterattack on Russian mercenaries and Syrian military personnel in February, saying Trump “authorized” the attack. While the U.S. military did in fact fend off a Russian-backed attack after “repeatedly” warning about the “growing mass of troops,” the strike was an “act of self-defense.” Citing the incident as evidence that Trump is countering Russian interests in Syria does not address the larger picture that, under Trump, Russia has become even more entrenched, further solidifying its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as Trump lacks a coherent overarching strategy for the war-torn country. Not to mention the fact that, in May 2017, Trump disclosed sensitive “code-word information” originating from Israeli intelligence services to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the United States at the time.
Trump sycophants are additionally highlighting the March 26 expulsion of 60 Russian intelligence operatives who were in the United States under diplomatic cover and the closure of a Russian consulate as further proof of Trump’s tough stance on Russia. But the expulsion of diplomats is an expected reaction that “represent[s] more symbol than substance.” And Trump also berated administration officials for expelling too many Russian officials, as he was reportedly “furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia” as compared to European allies, who joined the United States in the symbolic gesture.
Moreover, in a still-unexplained proposition in the early days of the Trump administration, officials looked at “handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.”
In what has emerged as a favorite talking point for Trump defenders in the wake of the meeting with Putin, conservative media are touting an arms deal with Ukraine. The deal, which the Obama administration had resisted, is meant to bolster Ukrainian defenses against the Russian military and pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels. Except Trump stooges in right-wing media fail to mention that the Ukrainian investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager’s shady business dealings in that country conspicuously stopped just “as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles.” Not to mention the fact that, during the 2016 campaign, Trump made the laughable claim that the Russian military is “not going into Ukraine,” even though it effectively annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. According to Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Ukrainian officials were “tearing their hair and running around like crazies” when Trump was elected because of fears over what it would mean for the country.
Trump’s Fox News sycophants have also insisted that by “beating up the NATO allies” at the 2018 NATO summit, Trump succeeded in getting allies to “cough up more money” for the alliance when in fact Trump’s efforts had little to do with members’ increases in direct spending on their national military budgets. According to The New York Times, “each NATO member pledged in 2014,” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense each year by 2024. … As a share of G.D.P., spending by European members and Canada began to rise before Mr. Trump took office.”
Conservative media have also pointed to Trump’s critical comments to Merkel at the 2018 NATO summit over the proposed Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany as confirmation that Trump is “tough” in dealing with Russia. But previous administrations and a bipartisan group of senators also opposed Nord Stream 2, and Trump himself toned down his criticism after meeting with Putin, conceding that the United States cannot block Germany’s domestic energy decisions. The German Marshall Fund’s Ulrich Speck said the president’s attacks against Merkel “looked as if Trump is looking for ammunition against Germany. If he would have been serious on pushing against Nord Stream, he would probably have brought this up much more forcefully with Putin.” Indeed, a “tough” U.S. policy toward Russia would avoid driving such a wedge between the United States and an ally that has disregarded domestic business concerns to wrangle European Union member states, which had their own economic apprehensions, to join sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
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Adult film actress and director Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, recorded an interview about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump, which is scheduled to air tonight on CBS’ 60 Minutes. Since she first came forward, some conservative media figures have chosen to attack her or to minimize her story.
According to Daniels, she and Trump had an affair in 2006. She first gave an interview about the affair in 2011 with In Touch Weekly, but it was only published in full earlier this year. While Trump has denied the affair took place, one of his lawyers, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 just a month before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Trump and Daniels have recently sued one another over the 2016 agreement.
Trump’s lawyers reportedly considered legal action to stop the broadcast of Daniels’ pre-recorded 60 Minutes interview, which will air tonight on CBS. And in recent weeks, some conservative media figures have also run defense for the president.
Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: Daniels is a “washed up porn star.”
[Gateway Pundit, 3/6/18]
CNN conservative political commentator Jason Miller: “I think it is clear that Ms. Clifford is trying to essentially launch a second act to her career now.”
CNN guest Michael Caputo: “Let's not forget, this is a woman who gets paid for sex wanting more money.”
Fox host Sean Hannity dubbed CNN president Jeff Zucker the “‘porn king’ of cable news” for coverage of Daniels. Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity lashed out at CNN for covering Daniels’ allegations against Trump, calling CNN president Jeff Zucker the “porn king” of cable news. He also called CNN’s “non-stop coverage of Stormy Daniels” a “new obsession” of “basically soft-core pornography.” [Hannity.com, 3/23/18]
Fox media critic Howard Kurtz suggested other media outlets were devoting too much coverage to Daniels and accused them of being “rather gleeful in covering these stories.”
Conservative talk radio host Mark Simone: “Media [are] now in collusion with DNC to influence the next election” by covering Daniels.
DNC analysis showed Trump did 11% better with women voters then other Repubs and it helped him win. That’s why they are pushing Stormy Daniels so hard (and Rob Porter) they want to hurt him with women. Media now in collusion with DNC to influence the next election.
— MARK SIMONE (@MarkSimoneNY) March 11, 2018
Pro-Trump writer Jacob Wohl pointed to one photo to claim Daniels’ reported polygraph test was fake. NBC News acquired a report of a 2011 polygraph test Daniels took about her relationship with Trump, which came with a sworn declaration from the examiner about its authenticity. According to NBC, “the examiner found there was a more than 99 percent probability she told the truth when she said they had unprotected sex in 2006.” Jacob Wohl of The Washington Reporter used an image taken from a video of the polygraph test to claim it was fake.
BUSTED: Stormy Daniels' Polygraph test was FAKE! She doesn't have finger cuffs to measure her galvanic skin response. Also, the blood-pressure cuff on her arm should be on her upper arm.
This test WAS NOT compliant with the American Polygraph Association and was RIGGED!!! pic.twitter.com/bcJMY9NOTX
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) March 22, 2018
Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen: Conservative Christians will stand by Trump because he keeps his promises to them. Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen defended conservative Christian supporters of President Trump from accusations of hypocrisy for violating their espoused values because he “does have one moral quality that deserves admiration: He keeps his promises.” From Thiessen’s March 23 FoxNews.com column:
During the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to defend religious liberty, stand up for unborn life and appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. And he has done exactly what he promised. The abortion-rights lobby NARAL complains that Trump has been "relentless" on these fronts, declaring his administration "the worst .?.?. that we've ever seen." That is more important to most Christian conservatives than what the president may have done with a porn actress more than ten years ago.
No one upholds Trump as moral exemplar. He is not the most religious president we have ever had, but he may be the most pro-religion president. Christian conservatives are judging Trump not by his faith, but by his works. And when it comes to life and liberty, his works are good. [FoxNews.com, 3/13/18]
National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson: “People knew the accusations against the president” but didn’t care about them. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) about Daniels upcoming 60 Minutes interview, National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson said conservative Christians just don’t care that Trump allegedly cheated on his wife Melania:
"Christians want the president to be pastoral. We like that but that isn't really the job assignment," National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson told CBN News. "People knew the accusations against the president before he was elected and they said, 'Actually, we care about security. Actually, we care about the economy.' "
Johnson added that Christians "should identify with Christ" before any politician and called his vote in the 2016 election a "prudential" one. "You've got to vote. You have a choice. Who are you going to vote for?" Johnson said. "I voted for Mr. Trump. I don't regret that vote. I don't think Christians who voted for him regret that vote. We knew this was in the past, but his job is to keep us safe and to keep the government out of the way of business so the economy can grow and I think he's doing that." [CBN, 3/23/18]
Anti-gay hate group Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins: Trump’s behavior was in the past. Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, also told CBN that Trump’s past behavior doesn’t matter because he’s keeping political promises he made to conservative Christians:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, echoed the same sentiment to CBN News and said Trump should be judged on his behavior and accomplishments in office.
"To date, what has the president done?" Perkins asked. "The president has not engaged, to our knowledge, and I think we would know, in any of the behavior that he did in the past, prior to the election. What he has done is he's actually followed through on political promises." [CBN, 3/23/18]
In early through mid-March, Fox News barely mentioned Daniels’ story. The news explainer website Vox examined cable news transcripts and found Fox News has barely even mentioned Daniels’ name, especially compared to its main competitors.
Over the past week, Fox hosts and pundits have insisted that the White House gave a “major concession” by including a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in its immigration proposal, ignoring the draconian aspects of the plan.
On the January 27 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Pete Hegseth exclaimed, “For conservatives, citizenship and 1.8 [million] DACA recipients is a lot more than people expected this White House to give … They made that concession out of the gate.” Tucker Carlson echoed that sentiment on his show, claiming that “the White House’s proposed immigration deal gives a major concession to Democrats: amnesty.” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has pushed the “huge concession” line multiple times. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen was the latest to make the misleading claim on the January 31 edition of America’s Newsroom:
First off, the proposal grants the Trump administration $25 billion for a border wall, a number that has been criticized as “a bloated increase from the $18 billion the White House called for just at the start of the year.”
And as the libertarian think tank Cato Institute points out, “The new plan [cuts] the number of legal immigrants by up to 44 percent or half a million immigrants annually—the largest policy-driven legal immigration cut since the 1920s.”
The proposal also pits “immigrants against one another” as it limits the scope of family reunification policies, preventing immigrants who have obtained citizenship from sponsoring certain family members and likely deterring skilled immigrants who are considering relocating to the United States. The White House proposal also expedites deportations for undocumented immigrants, effectively “strip[ping] all those people, if caught by the federal government, of their right to a deportation hearing before a judge.”
Fox's servile "major concession" drumbeat is just another example of the network sacrificing context to push the White House’s agenda.
On December 12, Alabama voters elected Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate -- ending a 25-year streak in which Democrats were unable to win a single seat in the state. Jones’ victory put to rest weeks of media hand-wringing and speculation about what would be more offensive to Alabamians: Republican candidate Roy Moore’s reported sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s or Jones’ allegedly “extreme” position on abortion.
In November, The Washington Post reported multiple women’s accounts of experiencing inappropriate conduct from Moore when they were in their teens, including one account of Moore pursuing a 14-year old girl. A few days later, another woman reported that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. In response, Moore largely avoided granting interviews to media, with the exception of a few friendly outlets such as Breitbart and One American News Network. To counteract these reports, right-wing outlets began leveraging what they claimed were Jones’ “extreme” views on abortion access against allegations of wrongdoing against Moore.
In reality, as Jones has explained, he supports upholding current Alabama law, which allows patients to seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions for “medical necessity” beyond that point. During a September 27 interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Jones stated that he was “a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body.” Despite this, many outlets not only adopted right-wing media’s inaccurate spin that Jones’ stance was “extreme,” but also went on to claim that Jones’ support for abortion access would ultimately cost him the election.
From early in the campaign, right-wing media consistently pushed the talking point that Jones’ position on abortion access was “extreme.” For example, during the November 15 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Jesse Watters described Alabama voters as having to decide between Moore, who “may have done inappropriate things with young girls 40 years ago,” and Jones, who he claimed supported so-called “‘partial-birth’ abortion” (a procedure that doesn’t exist but was invented by anti-abortion groups to shame those seeking abortions). In another example, Fox’s Marc Thiessen tried to equate Moore’s predatory behavior and Jones’ stance on abortion by calling them “two extremes.” Beyond this, Fox hosts and contributors alike leveraged a variety of inaccurate claims about Jones’ position on abortion -- saying he was for “abortion on demand,” claiming he was “a person who supports abortion at every level,” or parroting that he supported “abortion through all nine months” of pregnancy. In a particularly ill-fated exchange on the night of the election, Fox's Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume predicted that Jones' support for abortion would be his undoing:
Unfortunately, rather than debunking such obvious anti-choice talking points, some outlets instead adopted this right-wing spin about Jones.
During a November 27 discussion on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough claimed that Democrats would be better off if they had run “somebody who were, let’s say, conservative to moderate on abortion … but with Democrats on 99 percent of the other issues.” The following day, a panel on Morning Joe continued this line of argument with MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan stating that adopting an anti-abortion viewpoint “would have taken Doug Jones easily over the finish line.” Beyond Jordan’s claims, during the same discussion MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki also promoted the right-wing argument that Jones supported “no restrictions on abortion at all.”
On CNN, contributor Stephen Moore also adopted the right-wing spin about Jones, arguing that he supported “partial-birth abortion, which a lot of people in Alabama think is tantamount to murder.” While at The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis speculated that Alabama voters may not be able to cast a vote for Jones because of his “extreme position on what many see as a definitive life or death issue.” Lewis concluded that Jones “would be in a much better position” to win if his views about abortion weren’t “so radical.”
As election day drew nearer, other outlets continued to run with the argument that not only was Jones’ position “extreme,” but that it would also cost him the election. For example, The Boston Globe claimed that for Alabama voters, Jones’ stance was “a deal-breaker” and that if Moore was “running against a Democrat less doctrinaire on abortion, the revelations about Moore’s pursuit of young girls would likely have sunk his campaign.” NPR reported on December 8 that “for some Alabama voters, supporting abortion rights may be a sin worse than some of the sexual misdeeds Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore has been accused of.” On the night of the election, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd said that he’d been told that “if Doug Jones loses, it will be a one word answer: Abortion.”
This is far from the first time that media have gotten carried away with the argument that support for abortion access costs votes or elections for Democratic or progressive candidates. In early 2017, The New York Times published an op-ed titled, “To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party” -- kicking off wave of responses rebutting the false dichotomy that Democrats must sacrifice reproductive rights to win voters.
As HuffPost reported on December 4, however, there was ample reason to believe that Jones’ support for abortion access wouldn’t be a hindrance. According to polling performed by Clarity Campaign Labs, “Abortion wasn’t really in the top couple issue” when likely Republican voters explained why they wouldn’t support Jones over Moore.
After reports surfaced that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted and harassed several teenagers when he was in his 30s, right-wing media outlets rushed to characterize Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones as supporting “partial-birth” abortions, abortions up to the moment of birth, or so-called “late-term” abortions. Other outlets have adopted the right-wing media spin, claiming Jones is too “extreme” for Alabama voters.