The Spectacle Blog

Media Malpractice by a Conservative Against a Conservative

By on 3.28.14 | 12:33PM

Even though I'm not a social issues conservative, nor a Christian, I find myself frequently standing up for both (most often those traits are found together) because those people, unlike so many liberals, are standing on principles and deep-seated beliefs.

So, for example, when debating Christopher Hahn on Sean Hannity's radio show on Saturday on the subject of the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court (in which a private company wants to assert its constitutional right of free exercise of religion and not provide birth control in its health insurance policies), Hahn said that it was only "wackos on the right who object." I told him "I'm a not-very-religious pro-choice Jew, and I'm extremely upset about what the government is doing because it's about freedom."

It's one thing to hear a dishonest argument from the other side (although just because it's dishonest doesn't mean that many liberals don't actually believe it), but it's something else entirely when a nominally conservative writer or pundit says something which is both harmful and utterly wrong about a conservative candidate for political office.

That is the case with a note today by a gentleman named Warner Todd Huston writing for Breitbart.com in a piece entitled "Colorado Republican Running for Senate Reverses Pro-Life Position." The title (and thererfore the link to the article) suggest none too subtly that Gardner went from pro-life to pro-choice. This is absolutely, completely, patently false and represents media malpractice of the sort that I usually expect from the left.

Let me make one thing clear: Although Mr. Huston's tone suggests that he supports "personhood," the truly objectionable part of the article is the title (and therefore also the link to the article), which may not have been Mr. Huston's doing. (For example, in my writing here at AmSpec, sometimes I write my own titles, sometimes I leave it to the editors, and sometimes the editors choose a title different from what I suggested. That's why they're editors.)

In fact, what Gardner did was change his position regarding a "personhood amendment" which would legally define life to begin at conception, with many known and unknown implications for public policy.

Regarding Rep. Gardner's pro-life credentials, I quote from a recent article at LifeNews.com: "During his tenure, Gardner has voted 100% pro-life, casting pro-life votes 14 out of 14 times since he was elected to Congress. Gardner has voted to stop taxpayer funding of abortions, he’s repeatedly voted against Obamacare and funding or Obamacare, he’s voted for legislation to ban late-term abortions, he’s voted to de-fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business and to ban sex-selection abortions."

Does this sound like a candidate whose views fit the Breitbart headline of a Congressman having "reversed his pro-life position?"

As even Mr. Huston noted, the last time personhood was on the ballot in Colorado, it garnered only 30 percent of the vote, versus 70 percent in opposition, only a slight improvement from a similar defeat in 2008 of nearly 3-to-1. This is one reason that many pro-life conservatives here and in other states object to these measures. They are a huge waste of time, energy, and money, and make the pro-life movement look simultaneously feckless and extreme (e.g. because there are many pro-life Americans who do support allowing abortions in the cases of rape or incest.) Former Congressman (and one-time Senate candidate) Bob Schaffer, a pro-life devout Catholic and an extremely principled man who honored his pledge to self-term-limit after three terms in Congress, was against a personhood amendment.

Oklahoma had passed a personhood law, and in 2012 that state's supreme court (hardly a bastion of liberalism) invalidated the law by a unanimous 9-0 vote as unconstitutional. Just how does that make the pro-life side look, and how much money was wasted in that fight?

There may be principled disagreements about whether supporting a personhood law is the right thing to do from a moral perspective. It has, at least in Colorado, been a question which divides even pro-life conservatives. But just as importantly for a candidate for the US Senate, supporting personhood (again, at least here in Colorado) is terrible politics. Just ask Ken Buck, whose social issues positions allowed Democrats to demonize him as "extreme" in 2010, handing the election to an unpopular, nearly unknown Democrat during a huge Republican wave year -- and hurting other Republican candidates in the process.

Gardner was right to change his view on a personhood law though, as I say, at least that is a matter about which honest people can disagree.

But changing his view on personhood legislation or ballot measures is NOT the same thing as suddenly becoming pro-choice, which Gardner has not done and will never do.

Voters may decide to vote for or against Cory Gardner based on his views on social issues (though frankly I think this election is primarily going to be about Obamacare and the economy). But they should make that decision based on truthful information. The deceptively titled article by Mr. Huston is so misleading (again, in the title only, not the body of the article) as to be an outright lie.

And the impact of the lie will be to depress conservative support for a candidate that all conservatives should be strongly supporting in his effort to unseat a man who (as I noted in my article today) voted with the Obama administration's wishes 99 percent of the time in 2013.

Unless whoever titled Mr. Huston's article is an operative for the Democratic Party, he (or she) should be ashamed -- and should correct that egregious bit of media malpractice.

UPDATE: Mr. Huston responded to my question about the title as follows: "I have to inform you that I do not write the headlines nor do I have any power at all to make the changes you suggested. Still, in fact, he did reverse his pro-life position. He reversed his position on personhood and that was a pro-life position....So, even if I had the power to change the headline, which I don't, I wouldn't do it. That headline is 100% truth."

My response: "If you read a headline that says "Politician reverses pro-life position," what would you infer? If you wouldn't answer that it suggests he became pro-choice, then you're not being honest."

I disagree with Mr. Huston's analysis, but I do appreciate his willingness to have the discussion. My real problem is with whoever wrote that horrendously misleading headline.

 

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