Fox “news” anchor Shannon Bream regularly amplifies anti-abortion lies on her prime-time show

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Citation Ceci Freed / Media Matters

The opinion and “news” sides of Fox News are supposed to be separate, at least according to industry standards and what executives at the network are telling worried advertisers. But among the many problems with Fox News’ defense is the continued repetition of anti-abortion misinformation by both Fox News @ Night anchor Shannon Bream and the guests of her show.

When the show launched in 2017, Bream said in an interview that the program would be “all straight news, not opinion.” She’s failed to live up to her own standards. Bream and the guests on her program regularly push the sort of anti-abortion misinformation more frequently used by opinion hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.

Here are recent examples of Fox News @ Night undermining the network’s claim that it has separate “news” and opinion programming -- especially when it comes to abortion:

Fox News claims Fox News @ Night is a “straight” news program, yet Bream regularly hosts guests who promote anti-abortion misinformation and outright lies.

On the October 28 airing of Fox News @ Night, Bream hosted conservative pastor and Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress and allowed him to promote right-wing misinformation about Planned Parenthood without pushback. During the segment, Jeffress declared that Democrats should not call out racism because Planned Parenthood’s founder was allegedly “racist.” This falsehood is often repeated on Fox News opinion programming -- and right-wing media more broadly — even though it has been debunked.

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Citation From the October 28, 2019, edition of Fox News' Fox News @ Night

SHANNON BREAM (ANCHOR): Well, let's discuss with Fox News contributors Doug Schoen and Robert Jeffress. Great to have you gentlemen with us tonight. OK, Pastor, I'll start with you. What do you make of that statement by Joe Biden? A lot of people are likening it to Hillary Clinton's deplorable statement.

ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, it's similar. And look, I've known President Trump for four years -- there's not one scintilla of evidence that he's a racist. In fact, anybody who knows the president knows that if you support him, he embraces you, regardless of your race. And if you oppose him, he attacks you, regardless of your race. That's the essence of what it means to be colorblind.

But Shannon, I'm not sure the Democrats want to be the ones talking about racism, when in their history, they're the ones who supported the Ku Klux Klan. They opposed the abolition of slavery, and they continue to worship at the shrine of Planned Parenthood -- an organization founded by a racist named Margaret [Sanger] who wanted to use abortion to control the black population. Democrats have no room to be talking about racism.

BREAM: All right, Doug, but a lot of folks out there who do support the party now don't acknowledge those roots. They don't see it that way. They see the GOP is the party that has that problem now.

Bream also hosted Jeffress on October 17, allowing him to push a right-wing media talking point that Democrats are extreme for supporting abortion access by couching abortion as “murder” of “children … in the womb.” Later in the segment, Bream repeated right-wing rhetoric about abortions happening later in pregnancy when she stated that she has asked members of Congress whether they support a “late-term” abortion ban. The phrase “late-term” abortion is not medically accurate, and furthermore, abortions performed later in pregnancy are rare and often undertaken out of medical necessity or due to barriers prohibiting access to earlier care.

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Citation From the October 17, 2019, edition of Fox News' Fox News @ Night

ROBERT JEFFRESS (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): And you know, you take not only the removal of the tax-exempt status of churches, but you look -- even this week, Tuesday night at the Democrat debate, you had Democrats talking about abortion being a sacrosanct belief. Of course, they never use the word abortion, they talk about “women's reproductive health.” Well, I wonder how that works out for the 300,000 children, females who are murdered in the womb every year through abortion. How does that help protect their lives? Their health? And look, whether it’s taking away the First Amendment, freedom of religion, the Second Amendment, freedom of arms, or the most important gift of all, founded in the Declaration, the gift of life — the Democrats are about taking away rights and Donald J. Trump is about protecting our rights and that’s why he is going to win in a landslide in 2020.

SHANNON BREAM (ANCHOR): I'm guessing Ethan would disagree with most of what you had to say, so let me play a little bit of what the president said, because I found tonight that some of the biggest cheers he got were when he brought up this issue of abortion. He talked about the Virginia governor, himself a doctor who had made comments about what happens to a baby who survives an abortion. Here's what the president said on that tonight:

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That crack-pot governor from Virginia executes the baby after birth -- you saw that. That's why I've asked Congress to prohibit extreme late-term abortion, because Republicans believe that every child is a sacred gift from God.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

BREAM: And Ethan, there haven’t been a lot of questions in the Democratic debates so far about abortion -- is it because all of the Democrats are essentially on the same page when it comes to this? I mean, I've asked several of them face to face whether they are for or even a late-term ban and it seems like they don't want to touch that.

ETHAN BEARMAN: Yeah, well, I mean, Roe V. Wade and Casey are the law of the land, that is settled at the Supreme Court affirming the right for a woman, particularly in the first trimester to have a control over her own body. But I would add that I’m really disappointed in both the president and Pastor Jeffress tonight misrepresenting what Beto O’Rouke actually said. What he said is if a tax-exempt organization like a church will go into the marketplace to hire people and discriminate when they're hiring, then he would propose removing their tax-exempt status. It's not on your beliefs,  Pastor Jeffers, it's on your actions in the marketplace as an entity hiring — those really are different things so I wish people would stop misrepresenting that.

During the September 18 edition of Fox News @ Night, Bream allowed Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to amplify the right-wing falsehood that Planned Parenthood can easily be replaced by “community health centers.” Bream did not refute this claim, instead letting Blackburn promote inaccurate information about the impact of Planned Parenthood losing federal family planning dollars.

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Citation From the September 18, 2019, edition of Fox News' Fox News @ Night

SHANNON BREAM (ANCHOR): Dr. Wen and Planned Parenthood reportedly parting ways over the organization's abortion-first philosophy. Wen also accusing the group of hypocrisy for, she says, trying to silence her. Let's get a reaction from Republic Sen. from Tennessee Marsha Blackburn, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator, good to have you with us.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Good to be with you.

BREAM: Of course you have a deep knowledge of this as well because you were part of an investigation over on the House side when you were a member there into Planned Parenthood's practices. What do you make of what we've heard from the now ex-president, saying, basically, she wanted to have an overall health care philosophy; they didn’t want to give up the fight of abortion-first as their philosophy?

BLACKBURN: Right, and they are abortion first. This gets to the heart of the argument about Title X funding, and the legislation, S105, that I’d filed at the first of the year, which says, look, if you do abortion services, then you cannot get Title X, which are women's health care funds. And so, Planned Parenthood couldn't get those funds and because of an executive order from President Trump and that cost them about  $60 million because they were not willing to give up abortion-first. But I've got to tell you, listening to the statement from Dr. Wen and following the story, don't you find it so ironic that they are trying to silence her voice and she's complaining about her voice being silenced when Planned Parenthood has silenced the voices of millions of babies. And I just find this so ironic.

BREAM: Yeah, and of course, their side of the story, what some sources are saying is it was a management issue, her management style, that kind of thing, so this is her side of the story. They also -- you mentioned Title X -- they say they've been forced out of being able to receive federal funding because the family-planning money and the health care money will go to those clinics that do not perform abortions or refer for abortions. Here's what they say on their web site, Planned Parenthood Action Fund: "When politicians talk about ‘defunding’ Planned Parenthood, they really mean blocking patients who depend on public health care funds from getting their care at Planned Parenthood's health centers." How do you respond?

BLACKBURN: There are a few hundred Planned Parenthood clinics in this country. There are over 13,000 women's health clinics, community health clinics, in this country, and when Planned Parenthood doesn't get money -- and that money is fungible -- then those dollars are going to end up going to those community health centers. That is where the greatest need is. Our goal is to make certain that women who are underserved have the ability to receive access to health care.

BREAM: OK. We know that that legal fight on their part is not over.

In other instances, Bream herself obscures the divide between “news” and opinion by reiterating anti-abortion misinformation.

Along with enabling guests to spread anti-abortion misinformation, Bream repeats right-wing talking points herself. For example, during the October 29 airing of Fox News @ Night, Bream asked Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer a question framed around inaccurate right-wing tropes about abortion access in the Black community.

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Citation From the October 29, 2019, edition of Fox News' Fox News @ Night

SHANNON BREAM (ANCHOR): New tonight, Kanye West inserting himself into the political fray once again with explosive new comments about African-Americans, Democrats, and abortion. Chief breaking news correspondent Trace Gallagher is on the case for us tonight. Good evening, Trace.

TRACE GALLAGHER: Good evening, Shannon. Kanye West did the interview as part of a promotion for his new record called Jesus is King and when the radio host Big Boy asked the rapper about his support for President Trump, Kanye went after Democrats, saying their policies are harmful to black Americans. Watch.
 
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]
 
KANYE WEST: We brainwashed out here, bro. Come on, man, this is a free man talking. Democrats had us voting Democrats for food stamps for years, bro. What is you talking about? Guns in the '80s taking the fathers out the home, Plan B, lowering our votes, making us abort our children. God should not kill.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

GALLAGHER: Plan B, of course, is known as the morning-after pill. Kanye West, who is a born-again Christian, went on to say he's only afraid of God. And when Big boy asked him if his support of Trump could be considered an endorsement of racism, West was having none of it. Look.
 
WEST:  So you mean to tell me I make every decision based off my color. The most racist thing a person can tell me is that I'm supposed to choose something based on my race.
 
...
 
BREAM: Kanye West is out there making a lot of noise with his new album and talking about his newly found religious faith but also talking about the fact that he thinks Democrats have been pushing the Black community to abortions and things that are negative for them as a whole. Gianno Caldwell, who works here at Fox, a young African-American conservative himself, tweeting this, he says, "Kanye West is absolutely correct. Democrats have encouraged through policy and their own words the abortion of Black babies. Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood founder, designed Planned Parenthood with the intent to kill Black babies as well as immigrants. Like it or not, this is factual." I mean, Kanye says, listen, I don't care who thinks anything about what I have to say, this is what I have to say. What you think of him making a statement about Democrats?
 
TOM STEYER: I really don't know or understand where Kanye West is coming from and I don't know Kanye West and I’d never heard that statement before. What I know is that the African-American community has been the moral center of this country not for decades, but for much longer than that. And I think that if you go back through history and see who's been on the right side of the big debates in this country consistently, who has actually led from a moral standpoint, it's been the African-American community. So when I look, when I see a question -- any kind of question of right and wrong -- I try and make sure I understand where the leaders of that community are coming out because they've been right for so long and I think they've led in a way that hasn't been recognized, and I look at that community for leadership on every moral question there is. 

During a September 9 episode, Bream repeatedly amplified anti-abortion misinformation by alleging that Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg suggested “late-term abortion may be acceptable under biblical guidelines.” This talking point had been popular among other right-wing media outlets leading up to the airing of Bream’s show. By repeating these talking points, Bream utilized the same sensationalized rhetoric employed by her opinion counterparts.

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Citation From the September 9, 2019, edition of Fox News' Fox News @ Night

SHANNON BREAM (ANCHOR): Mayor Pete Buttigieg telling the Breakfast Club Radio Show that the Republican Party is on the wrong side of history when it comes to religion, and that social conservatives are wrong to assert that life begins at conception, or the very least, the first fetal heartbeats. It appears he's suggesting late-term abortion may be acceptable under biblical guidelines. Listen.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Right now, they hold everybody in line with this one kind of piece of doctrine about abortion, right? Which is obviously a tough issue for a lot of people to think through morally. Then again, you know, there's a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath. And so, even that is something that we can interpret differently.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

During an October 14 broadcast, Bream again asked questions framed around right-wing misinformation about abortion funding. Bream asked her guests if “tax dollars” would be used to provide “so-called abortion pills” on college campuses -- repeating a common right-wing argument about taxpayer funds being illicitly used to support abortion care. Fox contributor Doug Schoen repeated this misinformation, with Schoen claiming taxpayer dollars would supply abortion pills at “every public college,” without pushback from Bream. Suggesting that taxpayers fund abortion is an inaccurate allegation, as the Hyde Amendment forbids the use of federal funds to support abortion services.

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Citation From the October 14, 2019, edition of Fox News' Fox News @ Night

SHANNON BREAM (ANCHOR): California will soon have the nation's broadest gun seizure laws. The Golden State also banning at lunch shaming and the progressive beacon will soon be the first state to require public colleges to provide the abortion pill on campus at no cost to students. Time now for our lightning round with Fox News contributor Doug Schoen and Trump 2020 advisory board member Jena Ellis Rives. Welcome to you both.

DOUG SCHOEN: Thank you.

JENNA ELLIS RIVES: Thanks, Shannon. Great to be with you.

BREAM: All right. So let's start with this: All public colleges within the near future are going to have to in California provide these so-called abortion pills, they're called a medication abortion where they take the pills, you have to do some there and then some at home or in your dorm, wherever it's going to be. But they say at no cost to the students, so Jenna, my first question is, is this using tax dollars? Who's paying for this?

RIVES: Well, the text and the language of the bill, Shannon, actually says that students may be responsible for this because if the state can't cover the costs of the abortion pill, then student health fees will increase. And so, I think that a lawsuit is definitely going to happen out of this because for pro-life students who definitely do not want to participate in that, they are going to be required to opt in to actually be funding these abortion pills on their very own campus. I don't see pro-life students in California doing this.

BREAM: OK. So, Doug, the governor is saying, listen, this is just about us being kind of a leader in reproductive rights and this is going to be great for all of the colleges and the students.

SCHOEN: Well, look, Shannon, I am pro-choice. I believe in family planning, I believe in access to a multiplicity of different options, but this goes a little too far. I'm not sure I want tax dollars being used to mandatorily provide abortion pills at every public college. It goes a little too far — further than I, as a moderate pro-choice Democrat, is comfortable with.

During the November 7 broadcast, Bream returned to amplifying anti-abortion misinformation by framing emails from Planned Parenthood to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam about later abortion as “talking points” as opposed to factual information. In the segment, Bream showed emails in which Planned Parenthood debunked a right-wing media falsehood about Northam allegedly supporting abortion “until the moment of birth.” This framing has been adopted by Bream's Fox News opinion counterparts, even though no such procedure exists or is performed. Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress (once again being hosted by Bream) was allowed to reiterate right-wing misinformation on Planned Parenthood during the segment without pushback, claiming that Planned Parenthood “provides campaign contributions” to Democrats. Jeffress intentionally conflated Planned Parenthood the nonprofit health provider with its independent political arm, Planned Parenthood Votes.

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Citation From the November 7, 2019, edition of Fox News' Fox News @ Night

SHANNON BREAM (ANCHOR): And on this issue, abortion, Judicial Watch was able to get Freedom of Information Act documents asking about talking points that were allegedly given to the Gov. Northam after he had that statement, talking about if an infant is born alive after a botched abortion, they need to be kept comfortable and resuscitated if that's what the mother and family want. 

Well, now we have this email that shows he was given these talking points by a Planned Parenthood official. Least, they were sent to his office, saying there's no such thing as an abortion up to earth, these are -- up to birth, your complicated medical decisions, as a physician, because he is one. “I know how important it is to trust my patients.” All kinds of things that he apparently and others, who are out there talking about this issue, we heard these exact things that were said. Pastor, I'll ask you first, and bothly — have a very quick comment from you both. Listen, we hear from special, you know, groups all the time is it any different when it comes to elected officials?

ROBERT JEFFRESS (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, I think this shows the incestuous relationship between Planned Parenthood and the Democrats. I mean, the Democrats have provided hundreds and millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides campaign contributions, marching orders, and talking points.

And what's interesting in these emails, Shannon, is that really they didn't retract either Planned Parenthood or Ralph Northam, their basic contention that a woman ought to be able to have an abortion at any stage in the pregnancy, including when the child is in the birth canal of the mother. And for most Americans that's not only horrific, it’s barbaric, and I think it shows why the Democrats in August decided not to try to appeal to religious voters. Nobody with any kind of faith or any kind of conscience could support the barbaric beliefs of the Planned Parenthood/Democrat party. 

ROCHELLE RITCHIE (COMMENTATOR): Really quickly, abortion and infanticide are two different things and I will not sit here and support Gov. Northam for anything considering his Halloween costume and black face. So, I don’t support him at all, but I also recognize that abortion and infanticide are two different things. 

BREAM: Yeah, and I think, um, everyone agrees they’d like to keep it that way. OK, abortion itself is a whole nother debate. But Rochelle and Pastor, great to have you both on these hot issues tonight.

While Bream may style herself and some of her colleagues as “straight news” hosts, her continued amplification of anti-abortion misinformation reaffirms that there is no difference between Fox News’ “news’ and opinion programs.