Slanted abortion media coverage through the years has sown distrust on the right
Many conservatives don’t believe mainstream media outlets treat the polarizing issue of abortion with the nuance required to give the pro-life argument a fair shake as the left puts a spotlight on Roe v. Wade ahead of the looming midterms elections.
“Everyone knows that the so-called mainstream media is dominated by Democrat reporters, so it should come as no surprise that when these Democrat reporters cover controversial issues like abortion, they’re going to frame it in a way that fits their viewpoint,” Article III Project founder Mike Davis told Fox News Digital.
Davis, who has worked for all three branches of the federal government including for President George W. Bush, led the outside support team for Justice Neil Gorsuch’s successful confirmation to the Supreme Court. He believes the media makes “pro-abortion activists” look like they’re the mainstream while dismissing the views of pro-life conservatives, a practice that has been amplified since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year.
“The pro-life people, the Catholic people who oppose abortion, these reporters make them look like they’re extreme and outside the mainstream. These reporters pretend like abortion up until the moment of birth is within the mainstream when it’s absolutely not,” Davis continued. “But any reasonable restriction on abortion, including parental consent for minors, or limiting abortion in the second and third trimester, the media pretends like these are the most extremist measures.”
NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck feels the media coverage and tone towards abortion is one that refuses to understand or even see the pro-life argument. While Davis senses many reporters and pundits dismiss pro-life conservatives, Houck isn’t sure coastal elites have even interacted in a meaningful way with Americans from outside their liberal bubbles.
“We often talk in the media business, or media watchdog business, about how the media have almost a zoo-like view of people with whom they disagree or with whom they have a different world view or life experience, where they come upon a pro-life or a conservative who is Christian, along with a lot of other mainstream conservative values, and they almost want to tap on the window, and tap on the glass, or they want to observe conservatives almost as if they’re caged animals out in the wild, trying to study them and trying to understand them,” Houck said, adding that many liberals can’t comprehend pro-life views.
“They don’t know many pro-lifers and conservatives in their families and in their friend group in Washington, D.C. and New York and Los Angeles, the three main media hubs in this country,” Houck said. “And so, because of that, a lot of stories that are important to pro-lifers, such as the attacks on pro-life centers following the Supreme Court decision and the draft leak overturning Roe v Wade, it really didn’t occur to a lot of folks in the left-wing media to cover those things and I think a lot of it, some of it at least, was not out of purposeful censorship or cynicism. I think it all it just did not occur to them that this thing could be happening.”
“They are very hell-bent with almost religious devotion to their pro-choice views, and anyone trying to stand in the way of that is somehow hateful and sexist and bigoted and so on and so forth,” he added.
Another key factor in how abortion is covered by the media is a key lack of nuance and detail when it comes to reporting on conservative views, critics argue, as well as a willful double standard on nomenclature.
“Every mainstream media outlet curiously uses the term ‘anti-abortion’ to refer to pro-lifers but doesn’t use the term ‘pro-abortion’ to refer to “pro-choicers,’” conservative radio host for WCBM Amber Athey said. “If you agree that a woman should have the ‘right’ or ‘choice’ to kill her child, then yes, you support abortion and are thus pro-abortion. These labels matter and are just one of the ways the media tacitly denigrates the pro-life movement in their reportage.”
Davis feels that Democrats “raise a significant amount of money for their candidates and causes from the abortion industry,” so their allies in the mainstream media have a clear incentive to protect the source of cash. As a result, unpopular third trimester abortions are sometimes grouped with early-term abortions.
“There is overwhelming support to severely limit abortions in the third trimester, but the media tries to lump the first, second and third trimesters together to make any restrictions on abortions up until the moment of birth look like it’s extreme and outside the mainstream,” Davis said.
Houck agrees and feels there is a “purposeful lack of nuance” in the media’s coverage of abortion.
“I think that’s very clear that there is no difference in the media’s eyes between a 30-week abortion, 38-week abortion and a three-week abortion,” Houck said.
“The media loves to challenge the GOP on abortion, and they are running for office, so it’s fair, but they don’t challenge the Democrats on what limit — if any — they would place on abortion. Talking to all candidates on abortion would be balanced. But that is not happening,” Kristi Hamrick of Students for Life told Fox News Digital.
Examples of over-the-top abortion opinions and one-sided reporting are plentiful.
CNN’s Ana Navarro controversially evoked her own family members who have special needs when attempting to justify abortion legalization. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough suggested pro-life Christians are misbelievers because there is “nothing” in the Bible that says abortion is wrong, and his colleague Joy Reid compared states determining if abortion is legal to slavery.
MSNBC’s “The Cross Connection” featured a debate in which a guest called pro-life Republicans “fascists.” New York magazine claimed the pro-life movement relies on “undemocratic tools.” “The View” co-host Whoopi Golberg told ABC viewers that God supports abortion. MSNBC’s Claire McCaskill said the GOP wants “dogs sniffing women at airports” to prevent out-of-state abortions.
NBC News Washington correspondent Yamiche Alcindor recently claimed that she has spoken to a number of Republican women that are voting for Democrats for the first time because of “enthusiasm” surrounding abortion, while a Washington Post columnist likened support of abortion restrictions to a “modern-day Inquisition.” Left-wing outlet Teen Vogue urged readers to “fight like hell” for Democrat Stacey Abrams in the Georgia gubernatorial election because “lives are at stake” over abortion restrictions.
Other examples are more subtle, and on occasion, viewers have a good idea where reporters billed as nonpartisan stand on the polarizing issue even if they don’t acknowledge it until after leaving the industry.
Kate Smith, who covered “abortion access” for CBS from 2018 until 2021, quit her job last year so she could speak out on abortion rights. She had long come under fire from conservative critics for bringing an agenda to her reporting during her time at CBS News and was once called “Planned Parenthood’s Ambassador to CBS News” in a scathing profile by National Review.
The profile noted Smith’s friendly coverage of Planned Parenthood and tendency to rely on pro-choice sources and opinions in her news articles. Last year when Smith quit CBS, she immediately spoke out about her support for abortion rights, and she has since joined Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, as its senior director of news content.
“It’s noteworthy that CBS had Kate Smith as its abortion reporter and then Kate went in-house to Planned Parenthood. So, Planned Parenthood didn’t have to have their outside spokespeople at CBS do their bidding anymore. They just brought Kate Smith in-house,” Davis said.
Sometimes bias is obvious only to viewers tuned into the media landscape despite attempts by the reporter or pundit to masquerade as neutral. Such was the case earlier this year, as CNN relied on then-chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin for punditry regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The decision raised eyebrows, as critics felt Toobin has a severe conflict of interest.
Toobin, a reliably liberal pundit who has since left CNN, fathered a child in 2009 with Casey Greenfield, the daughter of Toobin’s one-time CNN colleague Jeff Greenfield. Toobin urged Greenfield to have an abortion, reportedly even offering money to terminate the pregnancy. Toobin was later taken to court after he denied the child was his, but was ordered to pay child support after he was forced to take a DNA test which proved he was the child’s biological father.
“Absolutely wild to have CNN go to Toobin for abortion commentary,” GOP strategist Matt Whitlock reacted.
“If anyone knows anything about forced abortion it’s Toobin,” Versus Media podcast host Stephen Miller quipped.
Toobin offered a grim prediction if abortion becomes outlawed nationally, pointing to similar bans in Central and South American countries, saying, “The rate of abortion does not go down when abortion is banned… what’s different is that women die and women are horribly mutilated because abortion is conducted in an unsafe way.”
Davis noted that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade more than two months ago, but Americans aren’t exactly seeing “women dying in back alley abortions like the Democrats proclaimed would happen,” which would surely command wall-to-wall coverage by the mainstream media if the tragic scenario predicted by Toobin actually occurred.
“What’s happening is, democracy is working in the 50 states. Kansas just rejected abortion regulations, and so it’s going to be up to the states instead of five unelected, lifetime-appointed justices on the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., who are deciding these issues,” Davis said.
The media has even attempted to hold corporate America’s feet to the fire when it comes to abortion.
The Washington Post published a report on how the video game industry has been “mostly silent” on the fight to preserve Roe v. Wade and tried to get some of the biggest names in gaming to plant their flag on the battlefield. Business magazine Fast Company similarly sought out corporations to take a stand on abortion by urging them to take a “survey,” CBS host Nate Burleson pressed Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan about whether his company will cover travel expenses for women to get abortions in other states, and CBS’ Gayle King asked United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby if he intends to “speak out publicly about these issues.”
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh came alarmingly close to being the victim of an assassination attempt in June in the aftermath of the controversial Politico report of a leaked draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, but the media largely yawned at the development after an initial wave of coverage of the breaking news. The New York Times put the story on page A20 the following day, and the threat didn’t make the front page of USA Today or the Chicago Tribune. MSNBC’s primetime shows between 8 and 11 p.m. ignored it that evening, and the Sunday talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN ignored it completely.
A study by Houck’s NewsBusters, a right-leaning media watchdog, found ABC, CBS and NBC’s morning shows on Thursday, the day after the incident, devoted three times more coverage to previewing that evening’s primetime Jan. 6 committee hearing than the threat to Kavanaugh’s life.
Many suspect that abortion will be highlighted ahead of the critical upcoming midterm elections, as Democrats and their allies in the press feel it’s an issue that could help them at the polls.
“We’ve been seeing from ‘CBS Mornings’ in particular, one of the broadcast network shows, that they are continuing to focus on abortion and try to make abortion a focus, portraying it as the number one issue for voters, while sometimes hilariously slipping into the piece either towards the end or buried somewhere in the middle, that, oh, actually, voters believe that is the economy,” Houck said.
Aaron Gardner, a Republican candidate for State Senate in Michigan, was recently featured in a four-minute segment on CNN. “State of the Union” anchor Dana Bash went around the Michigan State Fair speaking with attendees as the network’s on-screen graphic said, “In battleground Michigan, abortion politics take center stage.” Bash spent the first two minutes of the segment speaking with voters who are concerned about the GOP stance on abortion, spotlighting Republican Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon’s conservative views and highlighting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pro-choice agenda.
Bash then spoke to Gardner, who was essentially the token conservative to offer the opposing view. He believes Michiganders are much more concerned with issues such as jobs, if their kids are safe in school, the housing market, the cost of gas, rising crime rates and the economy, but was only on-screen for about 20 seconds.
“Mainstream media isn’t only informing the public about issues. They are putting their thumb on the scale by attempting to dictate what issues are important the voters by editing quotes to fit their narrative,” Gardner told Fox News Digital. “This is not journalism — it is political advocacy. Right now, mainstream media is pushing an issue such as abortion, to misguide the public and distract them from the issues they think about upon waking up.”
Bash managed to find a critic of Whitmer at the state fair, who told CNN that he preferred Dixon, but she needs “to be more liberal with that abortion situation.” When CNN shared the clip on social media, the quote about needing to be more liberal with abortion was used to promote the segment.
As Americans are hit with hidden agendas, bias by omission and refusal to understand the pro-life argument, Houck feels the “pretty huge double standard” can be easily summed up simply by noting the lack-of attention given to the March for Life compared to glowing coverage the Women’s March receives from the mainstream media.
“From 2013 to 2016, there was only a combined one minute and 40 seconds on those four Marches for Life. And in 2017, because Donald Trump had taken the White House with the support of pro-lifers, the coverage had ballooned to nearly 22 minutes, but that still paled in comparison to over 75 minutes on the broadcast network morning and evening newscasts looking at the Women’s March, and things only went downhill from there,” Houck said.
Fox News’ Andrew Kugle, David Rutz and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.