It's laughable when CNN's Erin Burnett claims to police "sandbox" politics when she covers for Obama like she did Thursday. Like her colleague Brooke Baldwin did earlier, she stood by the Obama spin that he "compromised" with Catholics on the birth control mandate and attacked a Mitt Romney ad accusing him of waging "war on religion."
"[T]o say this President is waging a war on religion, I mean, the man goes to church. That's ridiculous," Burnett complained. "That ad does not add up," she stated, adding it "seems to be at best simplistic and at worst just wrong."
Is that seriously Burnett's fact-check, that Obama "goes to church" so therefore his "revised" mandate poses no threat to religious institutions? But she went on, emphasizing Obama "backed off and changed it [the mandate]." Earlier, she said he "caved."
"Now not everybody loves that solution. That is a fair thing to say. But it does make Romney's ad about a war on religion off target," Burnett claimed. Exactly how is it "off target"? A dozen lawsuits issued by 43 institutions made that same point. Is the Romney campaign standing on shaky ground just because he is siding with them?
It was an entirely lazy and partisan "fact-check" by Burnett, since she at no point investigated either Obama's claims of a "compromise" or the conservative opposition to see if their arguments held up. She simply whacked Romney for calling the mandate a "war on religion" and stood by Obama's claim of a "compromise" without fact-checking that.
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired on OutFront on August 9 at 7:01 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
ERIN BURNETT: "Personal attacks and not at all on the issues of the day." Sadly that charge actually goes both ways. Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are guilty as sin.
BURNETT: Now we feel it's our duty to call out ads that we think are out of bounds. So tonight we look at an ad Romney himself released today, the same day, of course, that he mourned the loss of the campaigns of hope and change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, political ad: Who shares your values? President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith.
(End Video Clip)
BURNETT: That ad does not add up. It refers, of course, to the debate earlier this year about contraception and ObamaCare. The Obama administration clarified the 2010 health care law. It said that insurers must cover preventive health services. All right now they said that contraceptives counted in that category and that that meant most health insurance plans would have to provide birth control free of charge.
Now, this angered many religious institutions who said they don't believe in contraception. Now it's important to say that churches were always excluded, but affiliated institutions say a Georgetown University, which may employ workers of other faiths, were not excluded. This upset a lot of people and after a firestorm, the Obama administration caved, saying that church-affiliated universities, hospitals and charities don't have to provide or pay for birth control, but the employer's insurance companies would provide coverage directly.
Now not everybody loves that solution. That is a fair thing to say. But it does make Romney's ad about a war on religion off target. Just for a little context, off target though isn't even close to as bad as the one this week targeting Mitt Romney that we found truly out of bounds.
BURNETT: So this week I will say, in terms of the truly nasty, what we're going to call out of bounds for the rest of this season as we go through every ad, goes to the Super PAC representing the president. But Mitt Romney's "war on religion" also seems to be at best simplistic and at worst just wrong.
BURNETT: Reihan, it does seem this whole you know war on religion, the war on women, all of these charges are – I mean people have all sorts of specific issues with candidates and their point of views, but to say this President is waging a war on religion, I mean, the man goes to church. That's ridiculous.
REIHAN SALAM, CNN contributor: War – look, I think that the idea that the administration has been unduly hostile to religion and religious employers, I think is a fair point to make because I think that these institutions deserve wide autonomy –
BURNETT: But he backed off and changed it. He backed off after the three days of firestorm --
BURNETT: – whether you think he backed off because of the firestorm or not, gave a waiver.
SALAM: There's a waiver – there's a waiver -- a temporary waiver giving these institutions a year. And again when you look at it from the perspective of people who believe these institutions should be given wide berth and wide autonomy being given this brief respite, in case you actually wind up agreeing with their policies, acting in accordance with their views, that is, the views of HHS, that's not a very attractive solution.
BURNETT: I mean, Reihan, what I find problematic about it is just – it's the headlines. You know "War on Religion", when you can go through some very serious and nuanced discussions about what you think the President did or shouldn't have done, right? And you can have that conversation. But the ad isn't about that. So the candidates out of one side of their mouth are saying we want to elevate the dialogue. The other guy is picking on me, and then they're running things that say the guy killed somebody or the guy's having a war on religion. It is sort of an insult to intelligence of the voter.