Nationally syndicated radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt falsely asserted that Sen. Barack Obama had "gotten a question or into a debate about abortion rights for minors" when he said of his two daughters: "[I]f they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16." In fact, Obama was responding to a question about "the issue of HIV and AIDS and also sexually transmitted diseases with young girls."
During the March 31 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, host and conservative blogger Hugh Hewitt falsely claimed that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama had "gotten a question or into a debate about abortion rights for minors" when Obama said at a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania, "If they [Obama's two daughters] make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16." In fact, Obama made the comment in response to what CNN reported was "a question about how his administration, if he's elected, would deal with the issue of HIV and AIDS and also sexually transmitted diseases with young girls," as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented. Indeed, as video of the March 29 campaign event, broadcast by CNN, shows, Obama was discussing sex education, not abortion, when he made the comment that Hewitt aired.
Hewitt also misrepresented Obama's statement in a March 31 blog post, falsely asserting that Obama's "full quote" consisted of Obama saying: "Look, I got two daughters -- 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at age 16, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information."
On the March 31 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity made the similar false claim that Obama "made a statement over the weekend talking about the issue of abortion. If people make a mistake, quote, 'I don't want them punished with a baby,' unquote." Additionally, on the March 31 edition of MSNBC Live, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell falsely suggested that Obama was discussing abortion when he made the "punished with a baby" comment.
From the March 29 edition of CNN's Ballot Bowl 2008:
MARY SNOW (CNN correspondent): Welcome back to CNN's edition of Ballot Bowl. This is a chance for you to hear directly from the candidates. I'm Mary Snow in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where Senator Barack Obama is holding a town hall meeting right now, taking questions from the audience. Let's go straight to Senator Barack Obama; he just was asked a question about how his administration, if he's elected, would deal with the issue of HIV and AIDS and also sexually transmitted diseases with young girls. Here's Senator Barack Obama.
OBAMA: -- or we give them really expensive surgery and we don't spend money on the front end keeping people healthy in the first place. So, when it comes to -- when it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include -- which should include abstinence only -- should include abstinence education and teaching that children -- teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual. But it should also include -- it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I've got two daughters -- 9 years old and 6 years old. I'm going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16.
You know, so, it doesn't make sense to not give them information. You still want to teach them the morals and the values to make good decisions. That will be important, number one. Then we're still going to have to provide better treatment for those who do have -- who do contract HIV/AIDS, because it's no longer a death sentence, if, in fact, you get the proper cocktails. It's expensive. That's why we want to prevent as much as possible.
But we should also provide better treatment. And we should focus on those sectors where it's prevalent and we've got to get over the stigma because understand that the fastest growth in HIV/AIDS is in heterosexuals, not gays. And so, we've got to get out of that stigma that we still have around it. It's connected also to drug use. So, one of the things we have to do is to start thinking about better substance abuse treatment programs around drugs and not just treat it as a criminal justice issue. Treat it as a public health issue as well.
So -- but this all is connected to the idea of prevention and so my health care plan says, you know what? I don't want kids in the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma. I want them to get a primary care doctor and have regular check-ups and, you know, if we decreased obesity rates back to the rates that existed back in 1980, we would save the Medicare system a trillion dollars -- one trillion dollars because that's what's accounting for huge spikes in heart disease and diabetes and all kinds of preventable illnesses.
So we've got to put emphasis on that. Let me say one last thing, though. I'm going to use the presidential bully pulpit to start talking about people taking responsibility. We were talking about education earlier. It doesn't matter how good the job the schools are doing, if parents, you don't turn off your TV sets and put away your video games and make your kids do your homework and meet with the teachers, it won't make any difference. And the same is true on health care. I mean, some of us just have bad luck, and -- or genetically, are predisposed to certain diseases.
But, you know, if we're not all making some effort to get exercise and, you know, eat properly and not smoke and, you know, and I know -- I've had my own little battles. You know, I used to sneak a few cigarettes once in a while. My wife cut me off at the pass. She announced on 60 Minutes, she said, you know, "Yeah, he used to smoke once in a while, and he promised me. So if you catch him, anybody out there" -- but that was good. I think we all have to take some responsibility for these issues as well. That's going to be important. All right, I've got time for one more question.
From the March 31 edition of Salem Radio Network's The Hugh Hewitt Show:
HEWITT: But now, let's get to the question of what Barack Obama said today. He was talking about his two daughters, he'd gotten a question or a debate about abortion rights for minors, and he got -- he said, "Look, I've got two daughters, 9 years old and a 6-year-old, I'm going to teach them first about values and morals," and then he said this.
OBAMA [audio clip]: If they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16.
HEWITT: So Senator Santorum, you served with Senator Obama. What do you make of that response?
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): It's chilling to suggest that children, even at that age -- I mean, not at that age, obviously not 6 years old -- but even when he's talking about age 16, that that's a punishment. I mean, that's just a -- it's a remarkable twist that I think shows some insight. I mean, one of the things I've been saying about Barack Obama, this is a guy who's not gotten the attention of the media. It's all been sort of flowery speeches. And everything -- all these kinds of comments that may have been made in Iowa and places like that have gone sort of unreported. Now he's going to get the microscope, and these little snippets, just like this one, are going to teach you a lot about this man that the mainstream media is not going to want to let you know.