Newsweek's Fineman Gets Snippy: "How About Some Unbiased Readers For A Change?"

March 17th, 2006 1:18 PM

In this week's Live Chat on the Newsweek website, Howard Fineman came online to chat about the pro-life trend in South Dakota and how that might affect the Republicans. (Their answer: it will hurt them.) Fineman seemed to be having a fine time, claiming "I'm glad to be doing one again. I always learn a lot doing them. As Newsweek's chief political correspondent, I can't do my job by hunkering down inside the Beltway, either literally or digitally." But it wasn't long before the hunkering down occurred:

Hudson, OH: Given the majority of the media is liberal and pro-choice do you expect the media including Newsweek to cover this issue objectively and without personal bias?

Howard Fineman: You know what? I'm tired of being accused of bias and being liberal. I have been covering all sides of every argument in politics for a quarter century, and I think I am as fair and neutral as it is humanly possible to be -- which is not perfect. How about some unbiased readers for a change?

Reminder: this is in a web chat with a (perhaps wishful-thinking) headline "Political Backlash," with this completely biased piece of framing in the introduction:

With states moving to restrict abortion and the Supreme Court drawing closer to the day when it might actually reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion, GOP leaders see big political risks--and the possibility of getting more than they asked for. The South Dakota law, for instance, would allow abortions only to save the life of the mother, not in cases of rape or incest. Polls show that is farther than most Americans want to go.

Newsweek does not decide that since the polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans favor parental consent before abortions and oppose partial-birth abortion, whether Democrats "see big political risks" in going further to the left "than most Americans want to go." For his part, Fineman thinks the right to abortion is an inalienable right:

I think that in the 60s and 70s we enshrined the idea of individual rights, and Roe was a product of that -- and, in the case of women's rights, there is no going back. Nor, as a general matter, should we want to go back on women's rights.

And the carping by Fineman continued with this question:

Atascadero, CA: Why in the world would any man's laws force a woman to bear a pregnancy due to rape or incest thereby raping her twice in my opinion? I shall never understand why politics enters into the privacy of such a woman's only world. What are these lawmakers thinking? Certainly not of the woman, nor of the unborn child who would surely be unwanted under these dire circumstances.

Howard Fineman: One has to ask whether, if most of the SoDak legislators were women, they would have denied the rape exception. Making that statement doesn't and shouldn't brand me a "liberal." I am just a reporter trying to be logical and fair.

The overwhelming tenor of the questions (and Newsweek readers, too?) was liberal and outraged like Atascadero. Hudson, Ohio was the oddball. It was amusing when Fineman ended the chat this way: "whether we are Christians or not, I think we would all agree that our public discourse could use some love and grace."

Too bad Fineman didn't have any grace to offer Hudson, Ohio.