Hey, remember the “War on Women,” the election year talking point invented by Democrats in 2012? Well, the Associated Press really wants you to remember it.
War on women? GOP silent as Trump sounds off on abortion: https://t.co/6abq4VeGc8
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) March 31, 2016
That’s not a column the AP’s linking to there, that’s a news story. And yes, that is the headline the AP chose.
Whether Donald Trump‘s comments that women who have abortions should be punished are actually part of a nefarious war on an entire gender being waged by Republicans is besides the point. There are certainly those who believe that and who believe that the failure of some Republicans to denounce those comments are part of the same “war.” But there’s no excuse for inserting that opinion into a headline of a purely factual straight news piece.
In this case, if it’s really so obvious that the Republican Party’s waging a War on Women, there should be no need to say so in the headline. Just give a straight recital of the facts, and the readers will come to the same conclusion. The only purpose of bringing up the War on Women in the headline (even though it isn’t mentioned once in the actual piece) is to color your reader’s opinion of the facts by framing it that way ahead of time.
This is an excellent example of Betteridge’s Law by the way, which states that whenever a headline has a yes-or-no question, the answer is always “no.” The only reason for these sorts of headlines is because the editor wants to imply something that cannot be backed up by a straight reading of the facts.
If the above headline is really up to the AP’s editorial’s standards, they could pull this stunt with literally any headline on any topic. All you have to do is take the objective nothing-but-the-facts headline they should be running with, take a shortened version of the author’s political opinion, and put it in quotes.
Case in point:
High crimes and misdemeanors? Hillary Clinton set to interview with FBI
#NeverTrump? GOP frontrunner defends controversial NATO comments
Little Marco? Rubio yet to endorse GOP candidate
Contained? ISIS claims responsibility for Brussels bombing
I have to suspect that none of these blatantly politicized headlines would have made it past the editorial process. And yet somehow, the War on Women one did.
As it happens, the AP’s accusation that “the GOP” was “silent” about Trump’s comments is particularly lame. The story neglects to mention that both of Trump’s Republican rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich denounced his comments almost immediately. What the AP did find was that a group of female congressional Republicans they tried to get comment from, including Kelly Ayotte and Mia Love, weren’t commenting on the issue.
Let that sink in for a second; the Republicans that the AP headline tacitly accused of waging a war on women are all women themselves.
Yes, a handful of congressional Republicans aren’t speaking out about the latest Trump word vomit. And John Kerry has not spoken out about the Flint water crisis, but I haven’t seen anyone accuse Kerry of waging a War on Flint. Most reporters recognize that politicians aren’t in the habit of commenting on politically sensitive issues that have nothing to do with them, especially when it’s in the context of a highly-contested presidential primary. That’s not “war,” that’s just savvy politics. To infer support from silence is a sleazy tactic that could be used to tie any politician to just about any opinion out there.
As for why AP decided to go with a headline that blatantly favored one side of the political aisle, I’ll let them explain that one themselves. I sincerely hope that the fact that they were regurgitating the exact talking point Democrats plan to use in the fall was merely a coincidence.
[Image via screengrab]
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.