MSNBC's partisanship continues to rub off on the mother ship. The following Nightly News segment, which "reports" on the supposed nationwide GOP "war on women," is about as biased a network segment as I can recall. The correspondent? Andrea Mitchell, natch:
The only thing missing was the tagline, "the Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this ad." Ace of Spades blogger Gabriel Malor tweeted about this segment yesterday, but I'm just now getting around to it. Lefties scoff at Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" slogan, but Andrea Mitchell's handiwork above serves as an object lesson in how to assemble a piece of ideological advocacy masquerading as "news." Seriously, they should show this tape in journalism schools as Exhibit A in the what not to do lecture. Here's why:
(1) Right out of the gate, Mitchell approaches the story having already swallowed one side's narrative -- in this case, the very existence of a Republican "war on women." She speaks of "growing outrage," and excitedly announces that the Obama campaign is ready to "take advantage." No mention of Obama's diminished standing among women since the controversy erupted, or the strong public support for conscience exemptions from the new HHS contraception mandate. In fact, the mandate flap -- which is the issue -- isn't mentioned once in the entire package. No, Mitchell is too busy playing interview clips from five women: Two liberal protesters, the president of Planned Parenthood, Obama celebrity surrogate Eva Longoria, and then a five-second quote from Karen Santorum at the very end, assuring women they have "nothing to fear" from her husband. Balance.
(2) The report repeatedly conflates birth control and abortion, as if the two issues are vitually the same. They aren't, of course. Yes, some state legislatures are moving to limit abortion, or at least give women more information before following through on a life-ending choice. Guess what? Millions of people support those efforts; half the country is pro-life. Common sense abortion policy reforms like non-invasive ultrasounds, stopping late term abortions, and parental consent laws are backed by huge majorities of Americans, women included. Birth control, on the other hand, is a totally separate question. This report (intentionally?) muddies the waters on this distinction.
(3) Mitchell claims that Republicans from coast to coast who hold "similar views" to Rick Santorum's are acting to "limit access" to contraception. This is a massive distortion. Except Rick Santorum -- whose partial quote is plastered on a full-screen graphic -- isn't seeking to "limit access" to contraception, as his wife tries to make clear in her nano-second soundbyte. Fighting to ensure that religious employers and institutions can opt out of a brand new Obama mandate that forces all employers to pay for insurance plans that must cover "free" birth control is entirely different from "limiting access." The public supports the former proposition; they oppose the later -- and Republicans agree. Based on her standard, perhaps Andrea Mitchell can run a breathless story about how Democrats in all 50 states are "limiting access" to guns by not forcing employers to pay for their employees' firearms. Feel the "growing outrage," Andrea.
(4) Finally, the report glosses over and mischaracterizes the Arizona conscience law, cited as a prime example of the ongoing "gender war" (her words). Mitchell says the proposal "would force women to prove to employers they are using birth control for medical reasons, not contraception." This is wildly out of context. Arizona's proposed law is a response to February's HHS mandate that allows religious employers to opt out of the new requirements. Liberals like Sandra Fluke have argued that such conscience protections are unjust because a small number of women need birth control pills for important medical reasons beyond avoiding pregnancy. (In Fluke's case, Georgetown policy already grants exceptions based on this very point). Arizona's bill tries to satisfy exactly these concerns. If women can show their religious employer that birth control coverage is medically necessary (to prevent certain ovarian cysts, etc.), then those employers would have to pay for the coverage. No such "proof" is required beyond that very narrow set of circumstances -- and women are, as always, free to purchase their own birth control whenever they'd like, no questions asked. (Not that anyone was asking questions to begin with). In other words, Arizona legislators tried to accommodate one of the rare exception scenarios that the Left has advanced to bolster their argument. Mitchell takes that good faith attempt at compromise, twists it, and reports it as if it's a misogynistic monster. She also fails to mention that these provisions have been on Arizona's books for at least a decade.
NBC News should be embarrassed by this shoddy, sloppy piece of agenda-driven journalism that aired on their flagship evening news program.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography