Jansing, Halperin uncritically report Palin's false charge that Obama's "punished with a baby" comment was about abortion

››› ››› MARK BOCHKIS

On MSNBC Live, Chris Jansing uncritically aired Gov. Sarah Palin's false claim that Sen. Barack Obama was talking about abortion when he said of his two daughters: "I don't want them punished with a baby." However, Jansing did not note that Obama was discussing sex education, not abortion, when he made his comment. Time's Mark Halperin also uncritically reported Palin's attack without pointing out it was false.

On the October 11 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Chris Jansing uncritically aired Gov. Sarah Palin's false claim that Sen. Barack Obama was talking about abortion when he said: "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." In an October 11 entry on his Time.com website, The Page, Time editor-at-large Mark Halperin wrote, "In Pennsylvania Saturday the Alaska Governor goes hard against Obama, goes after his record on partial-birth abortion," and quoted from Palin's attack on Obama. In fact, Obama made no reference to abortion in his "punished with a baby" comments, but was instead referring to sex education.

During the MSNBC segment, Jansing reported that Palin is "taking aim at Barack Obama, this time on the issue of abortion." She then aired Palin saying: "I listened when our opponent defended his unconditional support for unlimited abortions, and he said -- he said that a woman shouldn't have to be, quote, 'punished with a baby.' Ladies and gentlemen, he said that right here in Johnstown, 'punished with a baby.' It's about time that we called him on it." Discussing the comments with Jansing, NBC News correspondent Savannah Guthrie later said of Palin: "[W]e've never heard her speak quite like this, and at such length, about Barack Obama's record on abortion."

Neither Jansing, Guthrie, nor Halperin noted that Palin's charge about Obama's "punished with a baby" comment was false. As Media Matters for America has previously documented, 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." 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 Palin cited.

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.

From the 11 a.m. ET hour of the October 11 edition of MSNBC Live:

JANSING: Let's go back to politics. Sarah Palin is swinging through Pennsylvania today holding a rally this morning in the city of Johnstown. She's taking aim at Barack Obama, this time on the issue of abortion.

PALIN [video clip]: I listened when our opponent defended his unconditional support for unlimited abortions, and he said -- he said that a woman shouldn't have to be, quote, "punished with a baby." Ladies and gentlemen, he said that right here in Johnstown, "punished with a baby." It's about time that we called him on it.

JANSING: NBC's Savannah Guthrie is traveling with the Palin campaign, joins us now by phone. We know that most of these speeches, Savannah, are the sort of stock stump speeches. Was that something new today?

GUTHRIE: It was new. Actually, we've never heard her speak quite like this, and at such length, about Barack Obama's record on abortion. By one count, she spoke for 10 to 12 minutes about these issues. She also for the first time really spoke about her own child in pretty personal terms. You know, her son, Trig, has Down syndrome and a lot of people, particularly in the pro-life community, really admire Sarah Palin for not just talking the talk as they say, but walking the walk. But in any event, after she sort of introduced the topic by talking about her own young son, she then really hit Obama hard on what the campaign likes to call extreme views on abortion. It's interesting, she's here in Pennsylvania, a place where they may be trying to reach out, for example, to pro-life Catholic Democrats, maybe that's the audience they were hoping to address today.

From Halperin's October 11 post on The Page:

The Page

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Jansing, Mark Halperin, Savannah Guthrie, Sarah Palin
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live, The Page
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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