In report on Brownback, CNN did not mention reported shift in abortion rights position

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

CNN chief national correspondent John King reported on the February 13 edition of The Situation Room that Sen. Sam Brownback's (R-KS) message to Christian conservatives was "I've been with you all along," without noting Brownback's reported inconsistency during his political career on the issue of abortion rights. For example, in a December 18, 2006, New Republic article (subscription required), senior editor Noam Scheiber reported that Tim Golba, a former president of Kansans for Life, met with Brownback in 1994 to discuss a possible endorsement in a congressional primary but, according to Golba, Brownback said, "I think you'll find me more in line with the view of Nancy Kassebaum" -- a pro-choice Republican then representing Kansas in the Senate.

Brownback himself has acknowledged a previous lack of clarity in his statements on the issue. On the January 28 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Brownback about his consistency on abortion rights, reading from a December 7, 2006, article in the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World and an October 27, 1996, Kansas City Star article. Brownback replied: "[M]y position has become more clear, but it's not evolved. And you look at the record. Look at how I voted. ... That record is consistently pro-life. I wasn't as clear in my statements at that point in time, but he record is absolutely 100 percent." That same week, Brownback told Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) News, "I was in the same position in 1994 as I am today as far as being pro-life. I didn't articulate it then. I thought ... that I would be better off saying the specific areas of the issue rather than 'Are you pro-life or pro-choice?' " According to CBN News, in response to questions about his consistency on abortion, Brownback's campaign sent out a letter to supporters that ask for "those that are capable and willing to send me a testimonial quote highlighting Senator Brownback's work on pro-life issues."

Other news reports have also suggested that Brownback changed his opinion during the 1994 primary or misled Republicans during the primary:

  • The December 7 Journal-World article reported former Kansas Republican Party chairman Tim Shallenburger left a 1994 conversation "with the impression that Brownback 'was not pro-life.'" Additionally, according to the Journal-World, David Gittrich, then development director for Kansans for Life, said, "He didn't know whether he was pro-life or pro-choice."
  • The October 27, 1996, article in The Kansas City Star reported that Gittrich said, "When [Brownback] first ran, he took a pro-choice position." The Star added that "[e]ven when he came out clearly on the side of abortion opponents, [Brownback's primary opponent Bob] Bennie and others in that movement didn't believe it."
  • An October 8, 1996, Kansas City Star article reported that "[q]uestions about Brownback's abortion stance have dogged him since 1994" and that Republicans felt that Brownback "seem[ed] to favor abortion rights":

"There's an awful lot of people who supported him who were very disillusioned," said Jim Braden, former speaker of the Kansas House.

Republican Linda Richter, a Kansas State University political science professor, questioned Brownback in a 1993 meeting in Manhattan. "I remember asking him one question on abortion, and I'm pro-choice, and I was satisfied with his answer," she said. "I got no feeling that he was anti-abortion."

Part of Brownback's defense in the October 8, 1996, article was "that he really didn't have a stand on abortion before [the 1994 race] because it was never an issue in his seven years as Kansas secretary of agriculture."

  • A September 18, 1996, article in The Hill reported that "[m]any prominent Kansas Republicans say that Brownback ... surprised them with an unexpected lurch toward the right after his 1994 primary victory." The Hill cited Dixie Roberts, an early adviser for Brownback in his 1994 congressional campaign, who said:" I feel betrayed by him. ... When he first ran for Congress in 1994, he indicated, and led many people to believe, that he was the pro-choice candidate." Additionally, former Kansas State House Speaker Jim Braden (R) said: "The impression that I had, before his 1994 primary, was that he was a moderate ... There's no question in my mind that the reason he changed is that he checked to see which way the winds were blowing, and felt that he should move to the right."

King was contrasting Brownback and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) with former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) on social issues. As the Associated Press noted, Romney said on January 10, "I was wrong on some issues back then," referring to a 1994 Senate debate in which Romney said that "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country."

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the February 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

WOLF BLITZER (host): He's [Romney] got some problems, though, even with that conservative base, John, of the Republican Party, because he's changed his views on several of the most sensitive social issues.

KING: And that is, Wolf, where we could see the so-called second-tier candidate -- candidates come into play here, Senator Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, especially.

As the Christian conservatives put it, "has Governor Romney truly had a conversion on the road to Damascus?" Does he feel differently about abortion, does he feel differently about gay rights than he did two, four, or five years ago, or is he doing this just for politics?

They're very suspect. They do applaud his early efforts, his outreach, as [CNN senior political correspondent] Candy [Crowley] noted, meeting with ministers, meeting with activists. They say he's done a very good job of being open, to say: Ask me any question you want.

But Governor Huckabee and Senator Brownback are meeting with these same meeting, saying: You know me. I've been with you all along.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform, Reproductive Rights
John King
The Situation Room
Sam Brownback, 2008 Elections
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