State of the Union Addresses | Media Matters for America

State of the Union Addresses

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  • 8 must-read fact checks debunking Trump’s abortion lies from his State of the Union address

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    President Donald Trump used his 2019 State of the Union address to promote right-wing media lies about state measures protecting abortion access. While media outlets struggled at times to properly contextualize and refute Trump’s misinformation, some outlets held Trump accountable by debunking his false, anti-choice statements and providing their audiences with accurate information about abortion.

  • Fox News almost single-handedly manufactured anti-abortion outrage before Trump’s State of the Union

    Before the State of the Union, Fox News devoted over 6 and a half hours to inaccurately saying state abortion measures allow “infanticide”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN & ROB SAVILLO


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News has responded to the recent state measures protecting abortion access in the only way the network knows how: with a barrage of inaccurate, bizarre, and sensationalized coverage. The network's coverage has driven misinformation about the realities of legal and medically necessary abortions later in pregnancy straight into President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, and Fox has continued this harmful narrative about abortion care beyond the speech.

    On January 22, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Reproductive Health Act, changing a pre-Roe v. Wade state law criminalizing abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy to now allow abortions with the consent of a doctor “when the fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk.” This law sparked a meltdown at Fox News, with hosts and guests decrying its allegedly “Hitlerian” nature. When a Virginia lawmaker’s comment about a pro-choice bill went viral, the Fox News spin machine went into overdrive, manufacturing a scandal about Democratic lawmakers pushing legislation that supposedly allows “infanticide.”

    Between January 22 and February 5 (before Trump's State of the Union speech):

    • Fox News discussed abortion in the context of the New York and Virginia measures for over six and a half hours.
    • CNN, in comparison, covered these topics for only about eight and a half minutes, while MSNBC’s coverage clocked in around four minutes.

    Between February 5 (after Trump's State of the Union speech) and February 6:

    • Fox News still led coverage on these issues, discussing abortion for around 13 minutes.
    • CNN and MSNBC covered it for approximately five and a half minutes and nine minutes, respectively.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Given Trump’s reliance on Fox News for his talking points and policy proposals, it’s unsurprising that he would soon take cues from the network’s breathless coverage. Indeed, both before and during the State of the Union address, Trump repeated several inaccurate right-wing media talking points.

    The consequences of allowing Fox News to rile up viewers -- including the president -- into adopting inaccurate and extreme rhetoric about abortion cannot be overstated. Trump is already calling for legislation based on right-wing lies about abortion and reportedly planning to center abortion-related fearmongering in his 2020 election messaging. Beyond this, incidents of anti-abortion violence and harassment have been on the rise, driven in part by right-wing hyperbole about abortion providers and patients.

    Media have a responsibility to correct Trump’s -- and by extension, Fox News’ -- inaccurate and sensationalized arguments about abortion. If the current response to this manufactured Fox News misinformation cycle is any indication, other outlets have some work to do.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for any mentions of “abortion” in close proximity of “New York” or “Virginia” on Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC between 4 a.m. and midnight starting January 22 and ending February 6. (We included special post-State of the Union address coverage on February 5 and 6 that fell outside of this time range.)

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances in which either the New York or Virginia legislation or Trump’s comments about either legislation initiated a discussion about abortion. These included instances when abortion was the stated topic of discussion. We also timed as segments “substantive discussion,” which we defined as instances where two speakers discussed abortion with one another. For substantive discussion, we only timed the relevant speech. Segments included host monologues, news reports or packages, interviews, and guest panels. We did not include teasers for upcoming segments or passing mentions of abortion in segments about other topics. We did not include rebroadcasts.

  • On SiriusXM’s Signal BoostMedia Matters' Sharon Kann calls out Trump's State of the Union abortion lies

    Kann: Given the “well-worn pipeline” from Fox News to Trump, “it was unsurprising” to see him repeat right-wing misinformation during the address

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the February 7 edition of SiriusXM’s Signal Boost with Zerlina Maxwell and Jess McIntosh, Media Matters’ Sharon Kann discussed the anti-abortion lies President Donald Trump pushed during his 2019 State of the Union address. Trump incorrectly claimed that recent measures in Virginia and New York "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth” and enable providers to "execute a baby after birth.” In reality, those measures were designed to protect abortion access at the state level, and right-wing media's claims of “infanticide” have no bearing on the medical reality of abortions that happen later in pregnancy, which are often undertaken due to health complications or nonviable fetuses.

    Kann told co-hosts Zerlina Maxwell and Jess McIntosh that the anti-abortion lies in Trump’s address had been predated by a “massive spike in coverage” of the issue on conservative media, and Fox News in particular, with media figures touting the same misinformation. As Kann noted, Trump's comments underscore the reality that there is a “well-worn pipeline between things that happen on Fox News and things that the president ends up saying”:

    JESS MCINTOSH (CO-HOST): So, the president stood up on Tuesday night and lied a whole bunch. And some of those lies are being clocked by the media and some of them seemed to -- I think there’s a bar, like where you get so crazy, the media gets tired and won’t fact-check you. And saying that doctors are murdering babies outside the womb maybe is just a bridge too far, and the media just lets it go, but they shouldn’t let it go because Republicans are using it and running on it, and it will be a theme in 2020. So, Sharon, talk to me about what we heard from the president and what we can do to combat that.

    SHARON KANN: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a couple of points that you just brought up that are really worth expanding on. The first is that, prior to the State of the Union, with the introduction of the law in New York and the bill in Virginia, we saw just sort of a massive spike in coverage about abortion-related issues from conservative media writ large, but specifically Fox News. And, as we know, there is a well-worn pipeline between things that happen on Fox News and things that the president ends up saying. So, it was unsurprising that some of the things that we’ve been seeing repeated on Fox News for the best couple of weeks showed up in that speech. Specifically, I think something that we’ve been seeing a lot in conservative media is this argument that Democrats are pushing these extreme bills that are allowing doctors to perform infanticide and there are so many different iteratives of sensationalized and inaccurate language about abortions that happen later in pregnancy that are being repeated. And those are things, like you said, that, like, “‘abortions are being performed after birth” or like “when somebody is dilating.” And that President Trump brought those things up at the State of the Union, I think, is predictable.

    Kann further explained that some major outlets like MSNBC are “repeating some of the really pernicious and inaccurate language” about abortion from Trump’s State of the Union address and from right-wing media. She said such further amplification of this misinformation contributes to the stigmatization of abortion and encourages harassment of providers and clinics:

    ZERLINA MAXWELL (CO-HOST): How do we get to a place where -- what do we do to combat rhetoric that is so inflammatory that you have to do a lot of explaining before you can get to the point?

    KANN: Yeah. I mean, I think that your sense is sort of -- I think the microcosm of post-State of the Union fact-checking is a really good example here because we actually did a piece yesterday sort of documenting some examples of social media and fact checks that occurred both during and immediately after the State of the Union, and even outlets that you would want and expect to do a better job were repeating some of the really pernicious and inaccurate language. They were saying things like, for example, “The president spoke about late-term abortion.” And it’s like, it’s not late-term abortion. That’s not a medically, or scientifically, sound term; it’s one that was in fact invented to villainize and shame people for having abortions. And, like you said, the implications of that are vast and very serious, ranging from personal harassment to things like clinic harassment, which we know is a very serious issue. I think in terms of stuff outlets should be doing or can be doing, I think we really shouldn’t -- I would like to underscore and I don’t think we should underplay the amount that this sort of echo chamber that exists around abortion-related issues, not just in conservative media, but on the internet discussions writ large, is something that, although sensationalized and at times may seem, like you said, sort of ridiculous, I think when they’re the only ones talking about it and they are talking about it in inaccurate ways, that has sort of a spillover effect, and it changes the way that even mainstream media engages in conversations. So, I think the first thing is that mainstream media, when they talk about abortion, need to be doing it accurately and need to not be afraid to talk about it because when we let abortion stigma dominate conversations, typically what happens is we see resulting coverage that is sensationalized and inaccurate.

  • Media outlets uncritically push Trump’s anti-abortion lies while reporting on the State of the Union

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Donald Trump’s presidency has created a requirement for outlets to hold themselves accountable for managing his often false and inflammatory rhetoric, by including context and accurate information about his statements directly in headlines and tweets, as well as supplying details in reports. Trump’s inaccurate claims about abortion during the 2019 State of the Union were a prime opportunity for media to provide important context -- an opportunity that some outlets missed, instead promoting Trump’s lies uncritically though headlines and social media.

    During his address, Trump repeated talking points from a scandal manufactured by right-wing media alleging that Democrats support state bills supposedly legalizing “infanticide” or abortions “up to moment of birth.” In his speech, Trump said that a law in New York "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth," claimed a Virginia bill would allow providers to "execute a baby after birth,"and called on Congress "to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children." In reality, Democratic legislators in New York recently passed legislation to codify Roe v. Wade's abortion protections at the state level, and Virginia Democrats introduced a bill to remove unnecessary barriers to abortion access, which has since been tabled.

    Right-wing media have responded with an avalanche of inaccurate coverage and extreme rhetoric, including saying that abortions later in pregnancy are “murders” and that Democrats were endorsing “infanticide.” To be clear, neither of these claims has any basis in reality. Abortions that take place later in pregnancy are extremely rare and often performed for medical necessity or due to access barriers created by anti-choice politicians. Right-wing media’s characterization of these abortion procedures as happening “at birth” -- or in some cases, allegedly after -- is simply wrong; according to medical professionals, such a scenario “does not occur.” Indeed, as patients who have had abortions later in pregnancy wrote in an open letter: “The stories we hear being told about later abortion in this national discussion are not our stories. They do not reflect our choices or experiences.”

    Here are the some of the outlets that reported Trump’s comments on abortion without providing this necessary context:

    • ABC’s World News Tonight [Twitter, 2/5/19]

    • NBC News [Twitter, 2/5/19]
    • The New York Times [Twitter, 2/5/19]

    • PBS NewsHour [Twitter, 2/5/19]

  • Following the lead of Fox News and Trump, Morning Joe promoted misinformation about abortion

    Joe Scarborough inaccurately claims Democrats “do not understand how out of step with American they are” on abortion

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    The morning after President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, MSNBC’s Morning Joe not only promoted his misleading comments about abortion procedures, but the hosts also echoed weeks of sensationalized and inaccurate right-wing media coverage about support for state measures to protect abortion access.

    During his 2019 State of the Union address, Trump repeated talking points from a scandal manufactured by right-wing media alleging that Democrats support state bills supposedly legalizing “infanticide” or abortions “up to moment of birth.” In his speech, Trump said that a law in New York "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth" and that a Virginia bill would allow providers to "execute a baby after birth." He called on Congress "to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children." In reality, Democratic legislators in New York recently passed legislation to codify abortion protections from Roe v. Wade at the state level, and Virginia Democrats introduced a bill to remove unnecessary burdens to abortion access, which has since been tabled. In response, right-wing media have spent much of the past few weeks fearmongering about abortion procedures and spreading misinformation that Democrats are extreme for protecting abortion access.

    Although this misinformation has been primarily pushed by right-wing media, the February 6 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe was an example of a program repeating these inaccurate talking points to a broader audience. In discussing Trump's address, co-host Joe Scarborough said, “Democrats have a blind spot. They do not understand how out of step with America they are” for “passing extreme late-term abortion legislation,” and he further claimed that it “will cost them votes in states they will need in 2020 if they don't recognize it as a national party.” Co-host Willie Geist agreed, pointing to a June 2018 Gallup poll he said showed a lack of support for so-called “late-term abortion.”

    By repeating these anti-choice talking points, Morning Joe amplified right-wing misinformation to an audience beyond Fox News. For example, “late-term abortion” is a medically inaccurate term used to suggest that abortions that happen later in pregnancy are too “extreme,” as Scarborough claimed. In reality, abortions that take place later in pregnancy are extremely rare and often performed for medical necessity or due to access barriers created by anti-choice politicians. Some media outlets’ characterization of these abortion procedures as happening “at birth” -- or in some cases, allegedly after -- is simply wrong; according to medical professionals, such a scenario “does not occur.” Treating abortions later in pregnancy as an “extreme” procedure is stigmatizing to patients and glosses over the specifics of their experiences. As a number of later abortion patients explained in an open letter, “The stories we hear being told about later abortion in this national discussion are not our stories. They do not reflect our choices or experiences. These hypothetical patients don’t sound like us or the other patients we know.”

    Morning Joe similarly misinformed viewers about polls showing support for abortions that happen later in pregnancy. Although right-wing media often claim that supporting abortion rights is harmful to the Democratic Party's electoral chances, this is an oversimplification. Polling on abortion-related issues is notoriously complicated, requiring clear questions and language that accurately reflects the realities of abortion access and procedures. Support for abortions later in pregnancy increases when people are provided context explaining that abortions at this stage are often undertaken out of medical necessity or in response to complex personal circumstances.

    This isn’t even the first time that Morning Joe has uncritically adopted inaccurate abortion-related talking points from Republicans and right-wing media. During Sen. Doug Jones's (D-AL) special election in Alabama, a Morning Joe panel similarly attempted to make the case that Jones’ “extreme” stance on abortions after 20 weeks would ensure his defeat -- based, in part, on polling about support for abortion restrictions. They were wrong.

    From the February 6 edition of Morning Joe:

    JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): I do want to just say for Democrats, because it hasn't been mentioned much in the mainstream media, and I’m glad you brought up the late-term abortion legislation passed in New York and Virginia. This is such a blind spot for Democrats, just like NRA actions after Sandy Hook, the video games and, again, refusing to pass any reasonable, rational legislation, painted Republicans as extremists. Democrats have a blind spot. They do not understand how out of step with America they are. Not only passing extreme late-term abortion legislation, but then celebrating it. It's a real blind spot for Democrats that will cost them votes in states they will need in 2020 if they don't recognize it as a national party.

    MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): Couple of other blind spots we’re going to get to.

    WILLIE GEIST (CO-HOST): The most recent reliable polling comes from last June from Gallup shows that 13 percent of Americans support late-term abortion -- 13 percent. By the way, that includes only 18 percent of Democrats --

    SCARBOROUGH: Which --

    GEIST: -- to your point.

    SCARBOROUGH: -- by the way, guess what, that's about the same number that are opposed to background checks for terrorists and domestic abusers and all the others.

  • Fox News figures salivate over Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    On February 5, President Donald Trump gave his 2019 State of the Union address. It was filled with misinformation and anti-immigrant bigotry, often sounding similar to Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. While mainstream news outlets fact-checked the many lies and misleading claims in the speech, Fox News figures heaped enthusiastic praise on Trump’s address, calling it “one of the best speeches I've ever heard in terms of reaching across the aisle,” gushing that "the president delivered, I think, a message of unity,” claiming "Trump is going to be recognized as one of the greatest presidents of our generation, if not the greatest,” and more:

  • Right-wing media predictably attack Pelosi with sexist remarks

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures predictably launched sexist attacks against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during the 2019 State of the Union address. The new round of attacks is just the latest manifestation of conservative media’s problem with women.

    For over a decade, conservative media haven’t hesitated to lob sexist attacks at Pelosi as part of a persistent attempt to build the narrative that she is a shrill, uptightwitch.” Conservative talk show host Dennis Miller once called Pelosi a “shrieking harridan magpie,” and conservative radio host Mike Gallagher has repeatedly said on-air that someone should “throw a bucket of water” on her and “see what happens.” Conservative radio host Mark Levin, who has regularly lobbed sexist attacks at Pelosi and other Democratic women on his show, once claimed that “our friends in San Francisco” will keep re-electing “shrill” Pelosi “as long as her makeup holds up.”  

    Other conservatives have responded to Pelosi’s leadership with crude, tasteless vulgarity. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh suggested that if Pelosi “wants fewer births,” she should put pictures of herself “in every cheap motel room,” adding, “That will keep birthrates down because that picture will keep a lot of things down.” Fox’s Laura Ingraham once claimed that “Nancy Pelosi basically did everything except sell her own body” to pass health care reform legislation.

    Conservative media personalities have also spent years attacking Pelosi over her appearance, including by claiming she has had face-lifts and Botox. Radio host Michael Savage offensively described Pelosi as “Mussolini if he came back and wore ugly clothing and put on bad makeup and had too much Botox.” Limbaugh once asked if “[Sen.] Lisa Murkowski and Pelosi go to the same Botox guy,” suggesting that “maybe they share needles.” On Fox host Sean Hannity’s radio show, Levin once declared, “You could bounce a dime off [Pelosi’s] cheeks.” Talk show host G. Gordon Liddy claimed, “If they stretch Nancy Pelosi's face anymore she can be used as a drum in the Marine Core (sic) Band.”

    Given conservative media’s history of sexist remarks against Pelosi, it is unsurprising that the pattern of attacks continued before and during the State of the Union:

     
  • The anti-abortion lies media must correct from Trump's 2019 State of the Union

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News spent the better part of last week lying about abortion, so it was only a matter of time before those talking points found their way into President Donald Trump’s hands. Now, during his 2019 State of the Union address, Trump gave that right-wing misinformation about abortion an even bigger platform -- and media have a responsibility to correct these lies.

    Right-wing media have manufactured a scandal about Democrats supporting bills that supposedly allow “infanticide” or abortions “up to moment of birth.” In reality, state lawmakers in New York and Virginia (and to a lesser extent Rhode Island) raised right-wing and anti-abortion media ire by advocating laws that either remove unnecessary restrictions on abortion access or codify abortion protections in case the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. With the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, that threat looks increasingly credible by the day.

    It’s no secret that Trump takes his cues from Fox News for everything from talking points to policy proposals and personnel. The Trump administration has enjoyed a similarly close relationship with anti-abortion groups and leaders. Thus it doesn’t take much work to identify both the source of, and audience for, the anti-abortion misinformation in Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address.

    Trump’s reference to New York’s and Virginia’s abortion measures was steeped in right-wing misinformation and sensationalized rhetoric. In addition, Trump repeated his inaccurate allegation that such measures "would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth." Although many outlets will be fact-checking the State of the Union address, fact-checkers are not always equipped to handle anti-abortion misinformation -- whether it comes from anti-choice groups or the president of the United States. Rather than uncritically repeat the misinformation Trump recycled from Fox News, media and fact-checkers should use this information to set the record straight:

    FACT: Pro-choice politicians aren’t advocating for “infanticide” or abortion at “the moment of birth.”

    Prior to the State of the Union, Trump tweeted about so-called “‘super’ late term abortion.” This phrase is intentionally sensationalized and does not reflect any medical reality, much like right-wing media’s claims that pro-choice politicians are promoting “infanticide” or abortion “at the moment of birth.” The truth is pro-choice politicians want to remove medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care and codify state protections because of the possibility that Roe v. Wade could be overturned.

    FACT: Bans on abortion at 20 weeks, based on right-wing misinformation about fetal pain, are scientifically inaccurate and harmful.

    During his State of the Union address, Trump demanded legislation that would "prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb." Right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have repeatedly pushed for such a ban at 20 weeks. Despite claims by anti-abortion lawmakers and media, abortion restrictions based on the idea that a fetus can feel pain by 20 weeks into a pregnancy are not supported by science. According to testimony from people who have had abortions after 20 weeks, these measures, such as the oft-introduced “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” often do more harm than good. 

    FACT: There’s no such thing as “late-term” abortions (a term used by anti-choice activists). People have abortions later in pregnancy for a variety of complex and urgent reasons.

    “Late-term abortion” is a medically inaccurate and intentionally vague phrase used by anti-choice activists to mislead about a variety of medical procedures, and it is not used by high-risk obstetricians. These bills refer to abortions that happen after 20 weeks, which can occur for many reasons, including serious threats to a person’s health (such as high blood pressure or bleeding), diagnosis of grave fetal conditions, and barriers to abortion access put in place by anti-abortion politicians that unnecessarily delay the procedure. Abortions that take place later in pregnancy are extremely rare; just over 1 percent of abortion procedures are provided after 21 weeks.

    People who have abortions -- including abortions later in pregnancy -- are making a personal health care decision that's between them, a doctor, and their families. The accounts of people who decided to have an abortion later in pregnancy show the complexity and necessity of being able to access the full range of treatment options to get the best care, including abortion. In addition, people seeking later abortions are often ending wanted pregnancies. Instead of uncritically repeating right-wing media misinformation and attacks on these individuals, media should recognize that pregnant people need access to timely, high-quality care -- and obstacles to access can jeopardize their health.

  • Right-wing media’s extreme abortion rhetoric could mean more people get hurt

    Anti-abortion harassment and violence are real and rising threats

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media’s self-created scandal around recent efforts by state Democratic lawmakers to protect abortion access is already producing anti-abortion threats. Given past incidents in which inaccurate and extremist rhetoric about abortion inspired anti-abortion violence and harassment, these right-wing outlets and figures are creating a dangerous environment for pro-choice advocates and fueling further discontent -- with potentially deadly consequences.

    On January 22, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Reproductive Health Act, changing a pre-Roe v. Wade state law that criminalized abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy to now allow abortions “when the fetus is not viable” or when there is a risk to the health of the pregnant person. Legislators in Virginia also introduced (and have since tabled) a bill in January that would eliminate some restrictions on abortion care, including reducing the number of doctors required to consent for a patient’s third-trimester abortion from three to one -- removing a medically unnecessary barrier to access.

    Right-wing media responded to the measures with an avalanche of inaccurate coverage and extreme rhetoric, including saying that abortions later in pregnancy are “murders” and that Democrats were endorsing “infanticide.” According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox News alone used the word “infanticide” at least 35 times during discussion of these state measures between January 24 and noon on January 31. To be clear, the claim that these measures promote “infanticide” has no basis in reality. Abortions that take place later in pregnancy are extremely rare and often performed for medical necessity or due to access barriers created by anti-choice politicians. Right-wing media’s characterization of these abortion procedures as happening “at birth” -- or in some cases, allegedly after -- is simply wrong; according to medical professionals, such a scenario “does not occur.”

    Right-wing media’s continued use of aggressive and false language to describe these measures has already provoked harassment from abortion opponents. The sponsor of the Virginia bill, Del. Kathy Tran (D), told The Washington Post about threats she has already received for supporting the removal of abortion restrictions:

    Tran said she and her family have received death threats through telephone messages, email and social media, leading to extra police protection for her and her family, and difficult discussions with her elementary-school-aged children.

    “It’s a very tough conversation to have with your little ones about how they need to be safe and watch out for themselves, and that it’s okay to ask for help,” said Tran, who lives in West Springfield. “I love my kids dearly. They are my world, and their safety is my number-one priority.”

    Tran also had to postpone a town hall meeting on February 2 because of “security and safety concerns,” including those posed by a protest organized by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List. In addition, ThinkProgress posted audio of a threat the Democratic Party of Virginia had received because of the bill, as well as audio of a racist tirade against Tran, telling her to “go back to Vietnam.” The party’s communications director told ThinkProgress that “the party has also had to take additional security precautions” as a result of these threats and attacks on its members. From ThinkProgress:

    On Friday, the Democratic Party of Virginia shared with ThinkProgress audio of a death threat it had received.

    In the recording, an unidentified caller incorrectly claims the party is proposing to legalize murder and then quotes a Stephen King novel to threaten the lives of the Virginia Democrats. “Redrum, redrum, soon we will come,” the caller says, a reference to The Shining and the word “murder” spelled backwards.

    Anti-abortion violence and harassment are real and ongoing threats in the United States. Eleven people have died as a result of anti-abortion violence since 1993. Numerous others have been injured, and still more have found themselves and even their families targeted with personalized harassment from abortion opponents. And the trend has intensified in recent years, showing little sign of abating. According to a report by the National Abortion Federation, rates of anti-abortion clinic protests in 2017 were already at the highest levels seen since the organization began tracking such incidents in 1977, and 2017 included “the first attempted bombing in many years.” In 2018, there were numerous incidents of violence or threats against clinics reported in New Jersey, Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.

    Beyond right-wing media’s fixation on spreading inaccurate information about abortion, some outlets have also helped fan the flames of resentment against abortion providers, patients, and clinics. In 2009, an anti-abortion extremist murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller while he was attending church with his family. Before Tiller's assassination, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had openly bullied Tiller on his program numerous times. According to Rolling Stone, “O’Reilly had waged an unflagging war against Tiller that did just about everything short of urging his followers to murder him.” O’Reilly repeatedly called the doctor “Tiller the baby killer” and said there was a “special place in hell for this guy.” At one point, O’Reilly said, “And if I could get my hands on Tiller – well, you know. Can't be vigilantes. Can't do that. It's just a figure of speech. But despicable? Oh, my God. Oh, it doesn't get worse. Does it get worse? No." After Tiller’s assassination, O’Reilly claimed he only “reported accurately” on Tiller and wasn’t responsible for the provider’s murder.

    In 2015, an anti-abortion extremist who killed three and injured nine at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood reportedly offered the phrase “no more baby parts” as an explanation for his actions. His comment seemingly referred to an oft-repeated right-wing media talking point based on deceptive undercover videos from the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. The New Republic reported on the admitted shooter’s penchant for right-wing media such as Fox News and Infowars, saying it shaped his paranoid and conspiratorial views about abortion and Planned Parenthood and may have influenced his actions.

    Right-wing media have also frequently used extreme language about abortion, attacking pro-choice advocates as “ghoulish, “sick,” and “aspiring baby killer[s]” and calling for violence by abortion opponents if “you believe [abortion] is murder.”

    During President Donald Trump’s administration, right-wing media rhetoric rarely remains in its echo chamber. In fact, Trump recently seized on the deluge of manufactured right-wing outrage around these state measures to bolster his inaccurate claim that Democrats want to “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month" of pregnancy. This sort of inaccurate and extreme rhetoric will reportedly feature in the State of the Union address as well. Anti-abortion extremists have already found ample support and employment in the Trump administration -- a trend that is sure to continue as these groups inexplicably line up to support the administration’s policies. Whether spread on Fox News or in the president’s State of the Union address, inaccurate and sensationalized rhetoric will continue to dominate the conversation about abortion. And abortion providers, patients, clinics, and advocates could continue to suffer the consequences.

  • Univision hosts denounce Trump’s characterization of immigrants as criminals at his first State of the Union address

    Univision’s Ilia Calderón: “The president used his speech once again to stigmatize all immigrants”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Univision hosts Jorge Ramos, Ilia Calderón, and Enrique Acevedo responded to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address on January 30 by denouncing his attempt to “once again stigmatize all immigrants,” with Ramos noting, “it must be strongly emphasized that a large part of immigrants in the United States is not members of MS-13”:

    JORGE RAMOS (CO-HOST): This is a president that, particularly at the end of his speech, was reading very slowly -- there was a moment, perhaps the most emotional, for me, was between the parents of Otto Warmbier, the young student who died in the United States after being tortured in North Korea. His parents crying in that moment seemed terribly [moving] to me.

    Difficult, also, is the situation, of course, of those who lost their children to MS-13 gang members. But it must be strongly emphasized that the large part of immigrants in the United States is not members of MS-13.

    ILIA CALDERÓN (CO-HOST): That's right, Jorge. The president used once again his speech to stigmatize all immigrants who came to the United States because the first thing he mentioned in his speech were those young people who died at the hands of gang members. And, like you said, all Hispanics are not gang members.

    RAMOS: Exactly.

    CALDERÓN: There are hardworking Hispanics. There are Hispanics doing things right in this country.

    In a dishonest ploy to usher in anti-immigrant policies that would be counterproductive to improving public safety, Trump and his allies routinely depict undocumented immigrants as criminals and gang members. This racist and xenophobic rhetoric is particularly disingenuous when it comes to MS-13, which has American roots. As explained by Splinter News, “Trump failed to mention that MS-13 is actually a gang that was born in Los Angeles in the 1980s. It only spread abroad because of the U.S. government, and experts have found scant evidence that its American branch is primarily made up of immigrants.” Speaking to White House Director of policy and interagency coordination Carlos Díaz-Rosillo, Acevedo called out this tactic, noting that Trump spoke heavily about the criminality of immigrants, but did not mention their “contributions and value”:

    ENRIQUE ACEVEDO (CO-HOST): Even though the idea of reconciliation and unity was discussed, the entire immigrant community was presented through the filter of criminality, of gangs, like Jorge and Ilia said at the beginning of the program. There was not much about the contributions and value of immigrants in the country. Was it not worth it to mention, at the same time, in the speech, both?

    CARLOS DÍAZ-ROSILLO: But he said something even more important, which is that he wants to give, not only a legal status, but also a path to citizenship for more than 1.8 million young people. It was expected that that would only be granted to 690,000. Almost 2 million young people will benefit if the president's proposal is approved by Congress.

    After listening to immigrants and Dreamers respond to Trump’s speech with dismay, Ramos summarized their message. Speaking directly to the camera, Ramos declared, “The message is clear, Mr. Trump. We are not members of the Mara Salvatrucha. We're not”:

  • Fox & Friends follows Infowars in running with right-wing video attacking college students

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ Fox & Friends and far-right conspiracy theory website Infowars both ran with the conservative activist group Campus Reform’s latest selectively edited hit piece against college students. Fox & Friends further edited the video and showed students' responses without giving much context to the nature of the questions that were posed to them. 

    Campus Reform is a discredited conservative group funded by right-wing dark money networks that takes students and professors out of context to fearmonger about perceived instances of liberal bias on college campuses. In its latest video, Campus Reform Media Director Cabot Phillips lied to students at New York University (NYU), telling them that President Donald Trump had already delivered his State of the Union address (the speech will take place January 30).

    Phillips gave the students fabricated information about what Trump said in the speech and asked for their thoughts. The video on Campus Reform's website features some of those questions. But on Fox & Friends, the hosts and Philips didn't always mention what he specifically asked the students, airing only the responses to his deceptive questions. For example, in the video posted on Campus Reform, Philips told some students: "One of the craziest moments [was] when he started a 'build the wall' chant with all the Republicans that were there. People on social media were accusing him of basically using the State of the Union as a campaign event." Fox deceptively aired only a response to this statement in which a woman said, "The fact that he started a chant, he's big on those."

    Alex Jones’ conspiracy theorist site Infowars and Fox & Friends have both given credence to the video. Fox’s flagship morning show aired parts of the video and hosted Phillips for an interview where they proceeded to mock the students.

    From the January 29 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): President Trump set to give his first State of the Union address tomorrow. So what happens when college students are asked about the speech before it actually takes place? Campus Reform went to NYU to find out. Watch.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    CABOT PHILLIPS (CAMPUS REFORM): What was your reaction to everything that was said?

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I didn’t watch it because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Quite racist at the very least, if not up there with most racist.

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hopefully everything that he’s outlined can be overturned by the public opinion.

    [END CLIP]

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Yes. Exactly. It’s called voting. Here now to discuss is CampusReform.org correspondent Cabot Phillips. So, Cabot, welcome back. So the premise was, let’s ask people about a speech that hasn’t happened yet.

    PHILLIPS: Exactly.

    KILMEADE: And what was the NYU reaction?

    PHILLIPS: The reaction was overwhelming disapproval of this speech, which should be encouraging for President Trump because there’s nowhere but up from here because they haven't actually heard any speech. It hasn't happened. But we’ve been hearing so long how the left has shut down anything that has to do with President Trump, with conservatism. And most conservatives assume it's not based on facts. It's based on rhetoric. It’s based on feelings, and this kind of proves that. And isn't it ironic, too, that these are supposed to be the most open-minded segment of society, the left. But, yet, they’re not coming in with an open mind to Trump's presidency or to conservatism at all. They shut down completely without actually knowing the facts.

    EARHARDT: Did you have anyone, one or two at least, that said this speech hasn't happened yet?

    PHILLIPS: Not one person was able to tell me the speech did not happen.

    EARHARDT: Really?

    PHILLIPS: There were a few that said I don't want to go on the record. I'm not entirely sure what was said. But one thing that -- every college campus I go to with Campus Reform, there's always one thing in common, and it's that there is an overwhelming pressure and bias to hate President Trump at all costs, even if there are no facts there.

  • The Miami Herald Exposes How The GOP Tried To Sell Two Different SOTU Responses

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei pointed out that the Republican Party presented a "decidedly softer" immigration stance in its Spanish-language response to President Obama's January 12 State of the Union address than in its English-language reply.

    Mazzei's January 12 post on the Herald's blog Naked Politics compared the responses, the first delivered in English by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the second in Spanish delivered by Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), which Mazzei called "decidedly softer." The responses offered "different messages" on immigration; while the English version emphasized the need to fix "our broken immigration system" by closing borders, the Spanish version focused on "a permanent and human solution" to immigration reform and for "those who live in the shadows." The contrasting responses reflect "the Republican Party's immigration split" and the ongoing attempts by the GOP to improve relations with Latino voters, which are often discouraged by conservative media and thwarted by the inflammatory rhetoric of some of their candidates.

    According to Mazzei, while some discrepancies in the speeches reflected Haley's and Díaz-Balart's different backgrounds, "the Spanish version" of the response "was decidedly softer" on the topic of immigration. From Mazzei's post (emphasis added):

    The Republican Party's immigration split was reflected Tuesdayin the two responses hand-picked party members gave -- one in English, one in Spanish -- to President Obama's final State of the Union address. The Spanish version, offered by a Cuban-American congressman from Miami, was decidedly softer.

    Here's what South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said in English:

    No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

    At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can't do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.

    We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.

    I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America's noblest legacies.

    Here's what Miami Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart said in Spanish (translation is ours):

    No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love the United States should ever feel unwelcome in this country. It's not who we are.

    At the same time, it's obvious that our immigration system needs to be reformed. The current system puts our national security at risk and is an obstacle for our economy.

    It's essential that we find a legislative solution to protect our nation, defend our borders, offer a permanent and human solution to those who live in the shadows, respect the rule of law, modernize the visa system and push the economy forward.

    I have no doubt that if we work together, we can achieve this and continue to be faithful to the noblest legacies of the United States.