The View echoes right-wing media by promoting the myth that Democrats are extreme about abortion

Meghan McCain 2.6.20

ABC’s The View has been called an important political platform ahead of the 2020 presidential election, but it has also amplified sensationalized anti-abortion talking points from right-wing media, including that Democratic presidential candidates endorse “extreme” abortion stances. 

As The New York Times noted, the show “has hosted politicians almost since its start, but until recently it was not taken seriously by them"; the recent shift has turned it into “an influential political talk show.” Unfortunately, as the program has become more politically relevant, co-host Meghan McCain has promoted anti-abortion misinformation that echoes what is typically seen in right-wing media.

Since the start of the presidential election cycle, right-wing media have repeatedly argued that Democrats support “extreme” abortion positions that make them unelectable. The View most recently played into this trope, which is straight out of right-wing media’s playbook for the 2020 election cycle, by providing a platform for McCain to ask the candidates faultily framed anti-abortion questions. Right-wing media then spun the candidates’ responses, creating a faux outrage cycle.

On February 6, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was posed a misleading question from McCain. McCain utilized right-wing media framing about abortion, asking Buttigieg if he would “be comfortable” if someone wanted to “invoke infanticide after a baby was born.” Buttigieg immediately pushed back on McCain’s question as promoting anti-abortion misinformation. The idea that abortions can amount to “infanticide” or are performed "all the way to the day of birth" is a fallacious claim, no matter how many times abortion opponents and right-wing media attempt to claim otherwise. 

Video file

Citation From the Februrary 6, 2020, edition of The View

MEGHAN MCCAIN (CO-HOST): So if a woman wanted to, I don’t know, invoke infanticide after a baby was born, you’d be comfortable with that? 

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Does anybody seriously think that's what these cases are about? 

MCCAIN: I think that there are people who think that, yes.

BUTTIGIEG: Think about the situation. If this is a late-term situation, then by definition it's one where a woman was expecting to carry the pregnancy to term. Then she gets the most perhaps devastating news of her life. We're talking about families that may have picked out a name, maybe assembling a crib and they learn something, excruciating, and are faced with this terrible choice. And I don't know what to tell them morally about what they should do. I just know that I trust her and her decision, medically or morally isn't going to be any better because the government is commanding her to do it in a certain way.

MCCAIN: I respect that. Just to put a peg on this, I respect what you're saying because you didn't back down from it. This is going to hurt you in the middle of the country with the Republicans you're trying to win over. People like me, this is a hardline and quite frankly that question -- that answer is just as radical as I thought it was, I'm sorry. 

McCain’s use of the “infanticide” falsehood and the allegation that Democrats are “radical” about abortion was instantaneously recycled by right-wing media. So-called “straight news” program Fox News @ Night later ran with the right-wing talking point when guest Tony Perkins, president of the anti-abortion and anti-LGBT group Family Research Council, commented on McCain's question. Perkins asserted that Democrats support “abortion up to the day of birth” and referred to the Democratic Party as “radical.” Host Shannon Bream, herself a purveyor of anti-abortion misinformation, didn’t push back, calling it a “conversation about third-trimester abortions or infanticide.” Others in the right-wing media ecosystem followed suit, manufacturing outrage over Buttigieg's response.

This reiteration found its way out of the right-wing media nebula and was inexplicably repeated on CNN's Cuomo Prime Time. CNN contributor Scott Jennings repeated false claims of Democratic “extremism” about abortion, alleging that Buttigieg spoke about “abortion on demand” during The View segment. Host Chris Cuomo himself refuted that claim, bizarrely stating he “saw the clip to prepare for this segment.”

Buttigieg wasn’t the first Democratic presidential candidate to face anti-abortion misinformation from McCain. During a May 2019 broadcast, after 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) commented on a restrictive abortion ban passed in Alabama, McCain asked Klobuchar if she supported “late-term abortion up until birth.” McCain continued to double down on her rhetoric even as her co-hosts challenged her about about how this myth was “based on a lie” and had been “debunked.” 

McCain’s questions to Buttigieg and Klobuchar were not an outlier; she manufactured the same allegations of “extremism” during a June 2019 segment. McCain declared that most of the Democratic candidates are "too far to the left,” particularly on abortion, to garner her support. During the segment, McCain also repeated a right-wing media talking point about later abortions, describing them as “late-term” abortions. Co-host Whoopi Goldberg accurately refuted McCain's claim, saying, “There is no such thing.” In reality, “late-term” abortion is a medically inaccurate phrase employed by right-wing media to deliberately sensationalize and stigmatize abortions later in pregnancy, many of which are medically necessary.

During a February 2019 airing, McCain once again used The View as a platform to amplify the right-wing media myth that Democrats support “infanticide.” McCain spoke about Democrats refusing to vote for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act -- legislation designed to solve a fictitious problem formulated by abortion opponents. In addition, during a September 6 episode, McCain inaccurately conflated Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) remarks on climate change as an endorsement of eugenic population control. Despite McCain’s continued assertions, her claims have no foundation in the reality of abortion care, let alone as part of the Democratic Party platform.

Given The View’s cultural relevancy and influence as an important political program, especially during the 2020 election, it is imperative for the show to discuss abortion accurately and not give a platform to the repetition of sensationalized right-wing rhetoric and claims of Democratic “extremism” about abortion.