NBC's Guthrie falsely suggested Obama's "punished with a baby" comment was about abortion

››› ››› GREG LEWIS

On NBC's Nightly News, Savannah Guthrie falsely suggested that Sen. Barack Obama was talking about abortion when he said of his two daughters: "I don't want them punished with a baby." In fact, Obama was discussing sex education, not abortion, when he made his comment.

On the October 12 edition of NBC's Nightly News, correspondent Savannah Guthrie falsely suggested 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." During the broadcast, referring to comments by Gov. Sarah Palin, Guthrie reported: "Saturday in Pennsylvania, her most withering attack yet on Obama's stance on abortion." She then aired Palin saying of Obama: "He said that a woman shouldn't have to be, quote, 'punished with a baby.' " In fact, as Media Matters for America has previously documented, Obama was instead referring to sex education, not abortion, when he made his "punished with a baby" comment.

As Media Matters noted, during the October 11 edition of MSNBC Live, after anchor Chris Jansing uncritically aired Palin's false charge about Obama's comments, Guthrie said of Palin: "[W]e've never heard her speak quite like this, and at such length, about Barack Obama's record on abortion."

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." 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 October 12 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Lester Holt:

GUTHRIE: It's been a working weekend for Governor Palin: a bus tour through Pennsylvania yesterday, today Ohio. And though she's still on the attack against Barack Obama, we're seeing a change in tone after a week where some say the atmosphere on the campaign trail was getting overly heated.

[begin video clip]

GUTHRIE: Sarah Palin at a rally tonight in Ohio.

PALIN: Just once, I would love to hear Barack Obama say he wants America to win.

GUTHRIE: Saturday in Pennsylvania, her most withering attack yet on Obama's stance on abortion.

PALIN: He said that a woman shouldn't have to be, quote, "punished with a baby."

GUTHRIE: But as Palin campaigned this weekend, getting a mixture of boos and applause as she dropped the first puck at a Philadelphia hockey game, noticeably absent was any reference to Obama's connection to '60s radical Bill Ayers, something she had previously hit hard. That marks a change in tone, after a week in which the McCain campaign had ratcheted up the rhetoric.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Savannah Guthrie, Sarah Palin
Show/Publication
NBC Nightly News
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.