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Brian Stelter Fails to Challenge Panelist Who Validates Trump’s Dangerous ‘Execute the Baby’ Lie

CNN host Brian Stelter and his panel tried to criticize Donald Trump‘s latest lie about “executing” babies after they’re born, but wound up validating the sort of claim that has led to deadly violence in the past.

At Saturday night’s rally in Wisconsin, Trump told a particularly graphic version of a lie that he included in his State of the Union address. Speaking about Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ threat to veto abortion legislation, Trump said “The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

Trump was referring to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who was actually describing the live birth of an infant (not an abortion) that could not survive on its own outside the womb, and the medical care decisions that would be made in that case (not a decision on whether or not to “execute the baby”).

On Sunday morning’s edition of Reliable Sources, Stelter opened the show by trying to take on this and other lies, dubbing Trump the “Say Anything President.”

Things quickly went awry, though, after Stelter started off his panel by asking about this particular lie. After playing the clip, he asked liberal panelist Karen Finney “Can you put this into context for us, Karen?”

But then he said “He’s talking about infanticide, which is illegal, immoral, incredibly rare, and something he’s continuing to bring up on the trail, and this was the most shocking way he has said it yet.”

The circumstance Trump described is not “incredibly rare,” it is a complete fabrication. Perhaps Stelter meant to say that the legitimate medical circumstance is rare, but his phrasing lent Trump’s claim validity it does not deserve.

Finney responded that “This particular attack is particularly disgusting and egregious, as someone who serves on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice America, this is one we’re unfortunately getting used to hearing from the right.”

“Obviously, it’s illegal,” she continued, referring to infanticide. “What would happen is, this would only happen in the instance if a child was born with some type of horrible deformity, and couldn’t  survive outside the womb.”

She went on to add that “it would be just like if someone had to be on life support for some reason. But he knows that, we’re talking about facts.”

“You think he knows the truth, even though he’s spinning like this?” Stelter said. Again, this isn’t “spinning,” it is a complete and total lie.

Finney replied that “Sure” Trump knows the truth, but that he uses “disgusting language to so demonize people,” and that “you can’t just be wrong or have a different opinion, you have to be despicable, you have to be evil.”

“There’s a lot going on this weekend, but I do think something like this comment should be a bigger story,” Stelter said, although the media ignored the same lie when Trump told it at the SOTU.

Although Stelter could have been clearer that Trump’s lie was a complete and total lie, it was panelist and White House correspondent for The Atlantic Elaina Plott who went out of her way to explicitly validate Trump’s claim.

After a change in topic, Plott said “I want to go back to the abortion discussion, and Trump’s comments for a minute.”

“What I took there was Trump’s hyperbolic kind of translation of what Ralph Northam had said, the Virginia Governor,” she said, then read some of Northam’s original comments from her smartphone.

“He said the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother as to what would happen’ to that viable child,” Plott said, even though Northam was explicitly not talking about a “viable child.”

“Like it are not, what Trump said right there, that’s what a lot of voters heard when Northam said that,” Plott said. “And so I think as reporters, to kind of pearl-clutch and say how dare he, you know, compound on it like that, the reality is that a lot of people, that’s, when Northam said that, that’s the way they interpreted it.”

She went on to say that “To seize on Trump’s comments like that and say ‘Where could he possibly get that from? Who could possibly take anything from what he’s saying?’ is just a little silly to me.”

But this is not mere “spinning” or “hyperbole” or “interpretation,” this is a flat-out lie that could have serious consequences. In 2015, a man who  committed a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs that left three people dead and nine wounded said he was inspired to act by a similar false claim.

There is a subcategory of media criticism that says every false Trump claim must be called a “lie,” but in some cases, it actually is important to erase the distinction between the word “lie” and lesser euphemisms. This is such a case.

Stelter is right that Trump’s relentless retelling of this lie should be a bigger story, but it also needs to be told with unflinching clarity.

Watch the clip above, via CNN.

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