Media Ignores Trump’s Dangerous ‘Execute a Baby’ Lie, Which Has Gotten People Killed Before
The greatest media failure of President Donald Trump‘s tenure in office may turn out to be their decision to virtually ignore the shocking lie he told during his State of the Union address, when he claimed that a Democratic governor “stated he would execute a baby after birth.”
Trump was referring to remarks that Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) made in a radio interview last week, in which he described the medical treatment of a newborn infant unable to survive on its own. Since that interview, versions of Trump’s lie have been repeated by elected Republicans and Fox News guests and personalities, and gone uncorrected by Fox News anchors.
But on the other cable networks, there was scant effort to correct the lies about Northam, if there was any at all. One CNN anchor read a statement from Northam’s office in response to these lies, while one MSNBC anchor paraphrased it. The subject barely came up beyond those two references, and when it did, it was pretty terrible.
In an interview with S.E. Cupp over the weekend, former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said that accusing Northam of supporting infanticide was “a little bit unfair.” And in a pre-SOTU interview on CNN, Kellyanne Conway repeated the lie twice, to which anchor Jim Sciutto replied “Kellyanne Conway, thanks very much for taking the time.”
And on CNN’s State of the Union, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was asked about Northam’s comments and volunteered that Northam “misspoke,” and that “no Democrat I know is for infanticide,” a characterization that anchor Jake Tapper had not made.
Yes, you can add Democrats to the list of people who have failed at dealing with this lie. That’s a separate and equally infuriating issue. There is no room to “interpret” Northam’s remarks beyond their plain meaning, and it is a dangerous and despicable lie, not “a little unfair.”
When Trump decided to drop this explosive lie into his SOTU, a reasonable person might have expected it to get a lot of attention, if not all of the attention. But in the hour and hours of post-SOTU analysis, Trump’s lie was barely mentioned (except on Fox News, where it was cheered).
On CNN, Rick Santorum said, after the speech, that Democrats are proposing “infanticide,” which elicited an “Oh, my God” from Jennifer Granholm. In the following hour, Wolf Blitzer asked Tom Perez for his reaction to Trump’s entire abortion chunk, and Perez correctly stated that the Virginia law is about “what happens when the mother’s life is in danger.”
On MSNBC the following morning, Hallie Jackson performed a brief fact-check of Trump’s lies about the laws in Virginia and New York but did not address the “execute a baby” line.
So the tiny blip of coverage that the line did receive did not include anyone pointing out that it is a lie to say that Democrats are in favor of “executing a baby after birth.”
Pointing out a lie this outrageous and demonstrable is, on its own, the most minimal of journalistic responsibilities, especially after you have literally broadcast it to over 45 million people. If Trump had said “we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he stated he likes to fellate donkeys,” that would have demanded immediate and frequent correction.
But given the history of lies such as this, the media’s dereliction here is downright monstrous.
Since the 1970s, there have been hundreds of acts of violence by members of the anti-choice movement, egged on by the mantra “abortion is murder.” This is a broader version of the Trump lie, but it is still a lie.
The unspoken implication of the phrase is that abortion is the philosophical or moral equivalent of murder because the fetus is equivalent to a baby, but the phrase itself is a lie. Abortion is legal, and protected by the constitution.
But over the past several years, the anti-choice movement has increasingly adopted more explicit and reckless lies in service to their cause. The most glaring example of this was the utterly discredited 2015 smear against Planned Parenthood, in which they were falsely accused of “selling baby parts.”
Then-presidential candidate Carly Fiorina put that lie into overdrive during a September 14 debate on CNN, where she claimed to have seen a video of Planned Parenthood personnel with, in her words, “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
Fiorina never saw that video because it does not exist, because it didn’t happen.
Two months later, a man named Robert Lewis Dear committed a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs that left three people dead, and nine wounded. In the aftermath of the massacre, Dear cited the Planned Parenthood video smears.
Trump’s lie, the same lie being spread by other Republicans and Fox News, is orders of magnitude worse and risks radicalizing one of the millions of people who are hearing it unchallenged.
If that happens, you can bet the media will mention it more than a handful of times, but it will be too late.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.