ABC, NBC reported on ad of Clinton supporter backing McCain without noting her false suggestion that McCain supports abortion rights

››› ››› LILY YAN

The evening newscasts on ABC and NBC each aired a portion of a McCain campaign ad featuring Clinton supporter Debra Bartoshevich. But neither noted that at a Republican press conference, Bartoshevich reportedly falsely suggested that Sen. John McCain does not support overturning Roe v. Wade. In fact, McCain's campaign website says that he "believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned."

During the August 25 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell reported that Sen. John McCain was "[a]ggressively pursu[ing] Hillary Clinton voters" before airing a McCain campaign ad showing Clinton supporter Debra Bartoshevich saying, "I'm supporting a Republican, John McCain." On the August 25 broadcast of ABC's World News, senior national correspondent Jake Tapper aired the same clip of Bartoshevich from the ad. However, neither O'Donnell nor Tapper noted that earlier that day at a Republican press conference, Bartoshevich reportedly falsely suggested that McCain does not support overturning Roe v. Wade. In fact, McCain's campaign website currently says: "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned." Moreover, according to Michael Scherer of Time magazine, a Republican National Committee spokesman contradicted Bartoshevich after the press conference.

In an August 25 post on Time's Swampland blog, Scherer reported that Bartoshevich said at the press conference: "Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions." Scherer reported that "[a]fter the event, an RNC spokesman reiterated that McCain has been very clear about his position on abortion this campaign cycle. And he has. He speaks about the life issue at almost every campaign event, and his campaign has aggressively courted evangelical voters by highlighting McCain's consistent pro-life voting record, and his stated determination to appoint Supreme Court justices like [Samuel] Alito and [John] Roberts."

On August 20, 1999, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that during an interview with the paper's editorial board that McCain did say: "I'd love to see a point where it (Roe v. Wade) is irrelevant and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (undergo) illegal and dangerous operations." But on August 23, 1999, according to the Chronicle, McCain issued what the Chronicle called a "clarification," stating: "I have always believed in the importance of the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and as president, I would work toward its repeal. ... But that ... must take place in conjunction with a sustained effort to reduce the number of abortions performed in America" [ellipses in original].

As Media Matters for America has noted, McCain has previously made other inconsistent statements about his position on Roe and abortion rights.

From Scherer's post:

Midway through the event, Bartoschevich was asked if she was concerned about McCain's pro-life voting record. At a podium paid for by the Republican National Committee, with McCain aide Carly Fiorina standing nearby, Bartoschevich said this:

Going back to 1999, John McCain did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle saying that overturning Roe v. Wade would not make any sense, because then women would have to have illegal abortions.

Was she going off message? Or are Republicans engaging in some cagey multi-messaging? After the event, an RNC spokesman reiterated that McCain has been very clear about his position on abortion this campaign cycle. And he has. He speaks about the life issue at almost every campaign event, and his campaign has aggressively courted evangelical voters by highlighting McCain's consistent pro-life voting record, and his stated determination to appoint Supreme Court justices like Alito and Roberts. Just last week, in his weekly radio address, McCain hammered Obama on abortion. "I can assure you that if I am president, advancing the cause of life will not be above my pay grade," he said.

From the August 25 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: The news media and political types, especially everybody in here, still chatting about Obama's choice of Joe Biden as a running mate. And as one theory goes, the Biden choice might change or alter or influence John McCain's choice of a running mate. Kelly O'Donnell covers that campaign for us. She's in Arizona tonight.

[begin video clip]

O'DONNELL: The McCain strategy? Rule one: Do not give the week away to the Democrats. So John McCain is staying visible. Today at wife Cindy's high school alma mater in Phoenix:

McCAIN: I have a very honorable opponent and one who will receive the nomination of his party this week in Denver.

O'DONNELL: Rule two: Keep the media guessing. What reporters thought would be a press conference turned out to be a surprise endorsement from a Latin Grammy-winning star.

McCAIN: Here he is, Daddy Yankee.

O'DONNELL: The teenagers shrieked.

McCAIN: I just want to say thank you, Daddy Yankee.

O'DONNELL: Rule three: Aggressively pursue Hillary Clinton voters. Today, another Hillary-inspired ad.

BARTOSHEVICH: She had the experience and judgment to be president. Now, in a first for me, I'm supporting a Republican, John McCain.

O'DONNELL: And hanging in the air, the biggest unknown: Who will join McCain on the GOP ticket to counter Biden, who brings experience and blue collar roots that connect with voters in big industrial states?

From the August 25 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

TAPPER: But while Obama was reaching outside his party, in Denver, the unity of the Democratic Party was under the spotlight. For many supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton still bitter about her loss in the primaries --

GROUP: Eighteen million.

TAPPER: -- Obama's hope for victory this fall is not a priority. This morning, Clinton gave them a pep talk.

CLINTON: Good morning. We're not the fall-in-line party. We're diverse. Many voices.

TAPPER: Obama today downplayed any tension, but acknowledged he had some work to do.

OBAMA: There are going to be some of Senator Clinton's supporters who we're going to have to work hard to persuade to come on board.

TAPPER: Last week, Clinton's brother, Tony Rodham, met with some campaign officials for Senator John McCain, and former President Clinton recently praised McCain for his leadership on global warming -- fissures in the party that McCain and the Republicans are hoping to exploit in a glut of new TV ads reminding voters of what Clinton said about Obama just a few weeks ago.

CLINTON: You never hear the specifics. Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign. I will bring a lifetime of experience. And Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002.

TAPPER: Another ad features a former Democratic delegate for Clinton.

BARTOSHEVICH: She had the experience and judgment to be president. Now, in a first for me, I'm supporting a Republican, John McCain.

CLINTON: Let me state what I think about their tactics and these ads. I'm Hillary Clinton, and I do not approve that message.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
NBC, ABC
Person
Jake Tapper, Kelly O'Donnell
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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