Each presidential candidate had his ups and downs in last night’s CNN Republican debate, but former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had the evening’s most memorable moment. Moderator John King posed the following question:
Since “birth control” is the latest hot topic, which candidates believe in birth control and if not, why?
The audience’s raucous booing made clear they weren’t interested in the press’s latest talking point, and neither was Gingrich. He turned the tables beautifully:
I want to make two quick points, John. The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate. But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. So let’s be clear here. If we’re going to have a debate about who is the extremist on these issues, it is President Obama, who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion.
Right on cue, Naureen Khan of National Journal sprang into action to defend the president and the press:
According to Politifact, an independent fact-checking organization that looked into similar claims made by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum on the campaign trail, Obama voiced his opposition to the new legislation as a state senator because it would have given legal status to fetuses and would thus have been struck down by the courts, and because Illinois already had laws to ensure infants who survived abortions would be given medical attention.
Not true, Politi-“fact”: as Ramesh Ponnuru explained at the time, Illinois’ preexisting protections were “loophole-ridden” and only applied to babies who were considered to have “sustainable survivability,” leaving pre-“viable” newborns unprotected. When Stanek “made her report, the attorney general said that no law had been broken. That’s why legislators proposed a bill to fill the gap.” Further, the Chicago Tribune reported that, “prosecutors in IL entered into a consent decree in 1993 agreeing not to prosecute doctors for apparent or alleged violations of this law based on ‘born alive’ definitions or other definitions.”
FactCheck.org found holes in Obama’s explanations as to why he did not support the “born alive” legislation. However, by opposing the bill, Obama was not voting to legalize infanticide (as Gingrich said) or to prevent doctors from giving infants medical attention.
Whether the bill literally said, word-for-word, “infanticide is hereby legalized” isn’t the issue. A de facto legalization of infanticide under certain conditions was already in place in Illinois, and Obama’s votes blocked measures to end it.
Furthermore, the media, including CNN, reported on and discussed Obama’s opposition to the legislation during his 2008 presidential campaign.
But the CNN report Khan cites is a fluff piece that takes Obama’s version of events at face value and vaguely implies that Illinois nurse and pro-life blogger Jill Stanek, who blew the lid off the controversy, was dishonest. The only critical take on events in the clip came from conservative commentator Bill Bennett. Today, Stanek elaborates, explaining that a similar Washington Post “debunking” actually “only shows it was a Fox News journalist, not a member of the mainstream media, who asked Obama about his votes; and it was conservative Bill Bennett who broached the topic on CNN; and it was Obama’s Republican opponent John McCain who brought it up during a debate.”
Newt Gingrich may have been a bit semantically imprecise, but his essential point was absolutely true and extraordinarily important. The mainstream media couldn’t care less about “extremism.” It’s support for abortion—at any point and for any reason—that drives their contraception obsession and religious bigotry.