A New York Times article that noted Sen. John McCain's recent statement that "he thought Roe v. Wade ... should be overturned" did not mention that McCain has voiced several inconsistent positions on Roe v. Wade. The Times also wrote that McCain "seemed to countenance civil unions"; in fact, McCain offered two apparently contradictory positions on civil unions.
A November 21 New York Times article noted that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), on the November 19 broadcast of ABC's This Week, "said he thought Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, should be overturned." The Times also noted that McCain, on This Week, "opposed same-sex marriage," but "seemed to countenance civil unions." The Times failed to note, however, that McCain has voiced several inconsistent positions on Roe v. Wade since 1999. Additionally, McCain, rather than "seem[ing] to countenance civil unions" on This Week, actually offered two apparently contradictory positions on civil unions. The Times also failed to note that McCain supported a recently defeated amendment to the Arizona state constitution that would have made same-sex civil unions illegal.
The Times reported on November 21:
Mr. McCain ... appearing on "This Week" on ABC, said he thought Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, should be overturned. But he sometimes strayed from the orthodoxy of social conservatism. He presented himself as a supporter of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy imposed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 to allow gay men and lesbians to serve in the military. He said he did not believe homosexuality was "a sin." And while he said he opposed same-sex marriage, he seemed to countenance civil unions.
However, as the weblog Think Progress noted on November 19, McCain was quoted in the August 20, 1999, San Francisco Chronicle saying:
But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.
An August 25, 1999, Chronicle article noted that on August 23, "McCain's campaign released a clarification: 'I have always believed in the importance of the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and as president, I would work toward its repeal.' " McCain's comments, according to the article, drew criticism from Republicans, who claimed McCain "appeared to be trying to please both sides on an issue that has been at the top of the political radar in California in recent elections."
On the June 19, 2005, broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, McCain took yet another position, claiming that he agreed "to some degree" that Roe v. Wade should be overturned:
MR. RUSSERT: Now, [Supreme Court] Justice [Antonin] Scalia, as you know, believes that Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in this country, was incorrectly decided. Do you agree with him?
McCAIN: Yeah, I certainly do to some degree because it was based on medical knowledge and technology at the time that indicated that babies are, children are not viable at its earliest stage as they are today. So it certainly wasn't based on sound, up-to-date medical technology. We save babies every day that are premature at a very early stage. Thank God.
On This Week, host and ABC chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos did not note McCain's prior statements on Roe v. Wade, nor did McCain acknowledge his own shifts.
Additionally, contrary to the Times' claim that McCain "seemed to countenance civil unions," McCain denied both that he was "for" civil unions and that he was "against" them. Stephanopoulos specifically asked McCain: "Are you against civil unions for gay couples?" to which McCain responded: "No, I am not." Seconds later, however, Stephanopoulos asked: "So you're for civil unions?" to which McCain responded: "No."
Stephanopoulos also noted McCain's support for Arizona's Proposition 107, a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and civil unions. McCain said the amendment "was misinterpreted," claiming that it "did allow for people to join in legal agreements such as power of attorney and others." According to a November 8 Associated Press article, the amendment -- which further provides: "no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage" -- would have, in the words of the AP, "forbidden civil unions and domestic partnerships" for same-sex couples.
From the November 19 broadcast of ABC's This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you believe that marriage should be reserved for between a man --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- and a woman. You voted for an initiative in Arizona that went beyond that and actually denied any government benefits to civil unions or domestic partnerships. Are you against civil unions for gay couples?
McCAIN: No, I'm not. But the -- that initiative I think was misinterpreted. I think that initiative did allow for people to join in legal agreements such as power of attorney and others. I think there was a -- I think that there was a difference of opinion on the interpretation of that constitutional amendment in Arizona.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're for civil unions?
McCAIN: No. I am for ability of two -- I do not believe gay marriage should be legal. I do not believe gay marriage should be legal. But I do believe that people ought to be able to enter into contracts, exchange powers of attorney, other ways that people who have relationships can enter into.