On Monday, all three network morning shows ran with the narrative that President Trump and other Republicans were fearing a “voter backlash” ahead of the 2020 election in the wake of “extreme” pro-life legislation being enacted by states across the country. At no point in any of the coverage did the NBC, ABC, or CBS journalists suggest that Democrats might look too extreme in their support for abortion.
“President Trump tweeting he believes some of the state’s laws go too far, writing, ‘I am strongly pro-life, with the three exceptions – rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother,’” reporter Stephanie Gosk asserted on NBC’s Today show. She then immediately parroted Bernie Sanders “telling supporters it’s part of a coordinated right-wing attack on women’s rights.”
After a soundbite ran of Sanders warning that the new laws were “dangerous,” another clip ran of a pro-abortion protester complaining: “I don’t think this is an argument over life not being precious, but at this point you’re put putting a clump of cells over a fully developed person.” Apparently referring to human life as a “clump of cells” was not considered extreme by NBC.
On ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos smugly proclaimed: “But now President Trump and top GOP lawmakers in Washington are backing away from some of the most restrictive laws, concerned about a voter backlash in 2020.” Correspondent Mary Bruce piled on: “Well, more than a dozen states have now passed new restrictions on abortions. But now we are seeing a growing number of Republicans who are anti-abortion saying they are not on board with parts of these strict new bans, including now the President.”
She seized on the President’s tweet as evidence that he was “suggesting some laws maybe going too far.” Bruce wrapped up the segment by concluding: “And, George, while the President may take issue with some of these new laws, he has also promised to overturn Roe v. Wade by appointing anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.” Stephanopoulos declared: “Yeah, he’s caught in a bit of a dilemma on that one, Mary.”
“President Trump is backing away from Alabama’s near total ban on abortion passed last week,” co-host Anthony Mason told viewers on CBS This Morning. Correspondent Jan Crawford agreed: “Well, Anthony, I think some White House advisers are worried that these restrictive state abortion laws are making Republicans seem extreme and that could galvanize women and Democrats.”
She further argued that Trump was telling some of the states that passed the pro-life bills to “tone it down.” When talking about the possibility of some of the laws reaching the Supreme Court, Crawford again emphasized: “It probably won’t even get there because it’s so extreme, the lower courts are likely to strike it down first.”
Like NBC and ABC, CBS found nothing extreme about Democrats’ support for abortion.
Here is a full transcript of the May 20 segment on NBC’s Today show:
7:11 AM ET
SHEINELLE JONES: Now to the intensifying battle over the hot-button issue of abortion. With more states testing strict bans, protests are raging across the country. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk is in Louisiana, where new restrictions could soon become law. Stephanie, good morning.
STEPHANIE GOSK: Good morning, Sheinelle. This morning and later on this week here at the state house in Louisiana, the house of representatives getting ready to debate and eventually vote on a so-called heartbeat bill, banning abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The governor of this state, John Bell Edwards, a Democrat, has said that he has vowed to break ranks with the national party and sign it.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Louisiana to Vote on “Heartbeat” Bill; Latest State to Push Restrictive Abortion Ban]
This morning, another state is poised to take up a restrictive abortion bill. Louisiana’s house could be the latest to pass a so-called heartbeat bill, making abortion illegal once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The state senate has already approved the measure. In all, 30 states have now introduced restrictive abortion measures.
PROTESTERS [PLANNED PARENTHOOD ADVOCATES IN MISSOURI]: Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!
GOSK: In Missouri on Friday, despite vocal protests outside and inside the chamber...
PROTESTERS [ACLU OF MISSOURI]: You lie, people die!
GOSK: ...lawmakers passed a bill making abortion illegal at eight weeks of pregnancy, the only exception when the mother’s health is at risk.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [MISSOURI STATE LEGISLATURE]: By your vote of 110 yes and 44 no.
GOSK: Missouri’s governor unequivocally in favor.
GOV. MIKE PARSON [R-MO]: I believe in the pro-life and I’m going to sign the bill.
GOSK: It comes on the heels of Alabama’s governor signing the most restrictive law in the country, it essentially outlaws abortion, including in cases of rape or incest.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Abortion and the Campaign Trail; President & Dem Challengers Wade Into Heated Debate]
The issue now taking center stage in the 2020 presidential race, President Trump tweeting he believes some of the state’s laws go too far, writing, “I am strongly pro-life, with the three exceptions – rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother.” Democratic presidential candidates also weighing in. Bernie Sanders, the first to hold a campaign rally in Alabama since the law was signed, telling supporters it’s part of a coordinated right-wing attack on women's rights.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS [I-VT]: These laws are dangerous, they are regressive, and they are blatantly unconstitutional.
PROTESTERS: My body, my choice! My body, my choice!
GOSK: On Sunday, protesters throughout the state voicing their frustration.
PROTESTERS: I don’t think this is an argument over life not being precious, but at this point you’re put putting a clump of cells over a fully developed person.
JONES: Steph, what’s been the reaction from abortion rights supporters to the rise of these restrictions nationwide?
GOSK: Well, Sheinelle, it’s all been happening so rapidly in the last couple of weeks that there’s been a bit of surprise, but also there’s been organization. You had major abortion rights groups calling for a day of action tomorrow across the country, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, they’re asking their supporters to come out and protest with the #StopTheBans. Back to you guys.
JONES: Alright, Stephanie, thank you.
Here is a full transcript of the segment on ABC’s GMA:
7:06 AM ET
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, we’re gonna get the latest now, Robin, on the escalating battle over abortion. Missouri has joined a series of states passing bans that could be headed to the Supreme Court. But now President Trump and top GOP lawmakers in Washington are backing away from some of the most restrictive laws, concerned about a voter backlash in 2020. Our senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce is in Washington with the story. Good morning, Mary.
MARY BRUCE: Good morning, George. Well, more than a dozen states have now passed new restrictions on abortions. But now we are seeing a growing number of Republicans who are anti-abortion saying they are not on board with parts of these strict new bans, including now the President.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Abortion Ban Battle Escalates; Trump Sounds Off on New State Laws]
PROTESTERS: My body, my choice!
BRUCE: With states across the country passing new restrictions on abortion, President Trump is now wading into the debate, suggesting some laws maybe going too far, tweeting this weekend, “I am strongly pro-life, with the three exceptions – rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother,” adding, “We must stick together and win for life in 2020.” But in Missouri...
PROTESTERS: People die when politicians lie!
BRUCE: ...where protesters flooded the state capitol this weekend, the governor now stands ready to sign a bill banning abortions after eight weeks. That does not include exceptions for rape or incest.
GOV. MIKE PARSON [R-MO]: I've been pretty clear where I’ve been from day one on the right to life. I think always, always it’s the most important to protect women’s health and advocate for the unborn.
BRUCE: And in Alabama, where the Governor just signed a near total ban on all abortion, the only exception is if the mother’s life is in danger. The abortion debate now front and center on the campaign trail, too.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND [D-NY]: I hope America’s women are paying attention, because President Trump has started a war on America’s woman. And if it’s a fight he wants to have, it’s a fight he’s gonna have.
PETE BUTTIGIEG: The dialogue has got so caught up on where you draw the line that we’ve gotten away from the fundamental question of who gets to draw the line. And I trust women to draw the line when it’s their own body.
BRUCE: Now, George, supporters of these new restrictions say they have a clear goal, they want this issue to be taken up and challenged in the Supreme Court. And, George, while the President may take issue with some of these new laws, he has also promised to overturn Roe v. Wade by appointing anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, he’s caught in a bit of a dilemma on that one, Mary.
Here is a full transcript of the segment on CBS This Morning:
7:13 AM ET
ANTHONY MASON: President Trump is backing away from Alabama's near total ban on abortion passed last week. In a tweet, he suggested the state went too long. Jan Crawford covers the Supreme Court. Jan, why is the president weighing in more now?
JAN CRAWFORD: Well, Anthony, I think some White House advisers are worried that these restrictive state abortion laws are making Republicans seem extreme and that could galvanize women and Democrats. So, his tweets are basically telling state officials who might be considering laws like Alabama’s, which has no exceptions for rape or incest, to tone it down. A White House official told CBS News he respected states' rights but he would not have signed that Alabama law. And other top Republican leaders have also distanced themselves from the Alabama law saying it doesn't have those exceptions for rape and incest. Now, keep in mind, Alabama lawmakers said they wrote that law solely to challenge Roe v. Wade in this newly conservative Supreme Court. But here’s the thing: It probably won’t even get there because it’s so extreme, the lower courts are likely to strike it down first. But there are several other less restrictive case that could get to the Court. Of course, right in the middle of the 2020 campaign. Tony?
TONY DOKOUPIL: Jan, thank you.