Roe-ing That Narrative Boat
As Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Media Research Center fearmongered about violence by pro-choice activists (while ignoring decades of anti-abortion violence), while also insisting we should ignore Clarence Thomas' desire to eliminate other rights.
By Terry Krepel
After the May leak of a draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade and, thus, the federal right to an abortion, the Media Research Center was eager to hype isolated incidents of violent protest into an huge issue. A May 4 item by Kevin Tober was typical:
Late Tuesday night, violent pro-abortion mobs took the streets in Los Angeles to express their rage over the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and handing the abortion issue back to the states to decide. In videos posted to Twitter and reported online by Fox News and The Daily Caller, among other reputable outlets, the violent left-wing abortion activists were seen attacking police officers.
The fact that Tober thinks wildly biased outlets like Fox News and the Daily Caller are "reputable" reflects the MRC's own untrustworthy bias.
The MRC went on to rant that even demonstrably peaceful protests outside Supreme Court justices' homes were a threat:
The MRC then found an actual isolated incident of violence to obsess about, as Tober wrote in a May 9 post:
After a weekend of leftist abortion activists tormenting the six conservative Supreme Court justices at their homes and desecrating or setting pro-life clinics on fire, ABC’s World News Tonight decided on Monday to move on from the destruction of property and menacing behavior that took place for the simple reason that their behavior makes their demonic abortion agenda look bad.
Kathleen Krumhansl highlighted this same incident in a May 12 post:
News of a violent terror attack against a pro-life clinic in Madison, Wisconsin, got the quickie treatment at the Latino networks, which spent a total of 74 seconds reporting the attack that included throwing two Molotov cocktails into the facilities, lighting a fire and posting a menacing graffiti warning that “If abortions aren't safe, then you aren't either”.
Scott Whitlock ranted that "the corrupt network morning and evening newscasts" devoted "a scant 77 seconds" to the "terroristic attack" on the clinic, unironically adding, "Harassing citizens into complicity is not the way we do things in this country. And the press should call attacks like Madison for what they are: Terror."
By contrast, neither Tober nor Krumhansl mentioned an incident a few months earlier that, by their definition, was also a violent terror attack: A Planned Parenthood clinic burned down in Knoxville, Tenn., on New Year's Eve, which investigators have determined was arson -- perpetrated, one may safely presume, by an anti-abortion activist. No fretting about something "demonic" happening here, of course.
The MRC also got mad when the history of violence from anti-abortion activists was brought up. A May 6 post by Alex Christy complained that CNN reported on "hypothetical Roe-related violence...from the 'far-right.'" A May 10 post by Christy noted that folks on CNN brought up "anti-abortion protesters outside of abortion clinics, blocking the way, making it almost impossible for women to go in and out of those clinics" as well as "sadly, bombing of some clinics,” then played whataboutism with the Wisconsin incident: "While CNN warns of right-wing violence, it makes excuses for left-wing intimidation tactics while pro-life facilities are targeted with Molotov cocktails." Curtis Houck similarly whined, right down to the same example of whataboutism, in a post the same day:
Tuesday’s CBS Mornings had a maddening end to its segment about the increasing threats to the lives of Supreme Court justices for striking down (or at least weakening) Roe v. Wade as congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane claimed intelligence shared with CBS views “extremists” (meaning the far-right) as the group to worry about amid tensions surrounding the issue.
The MRC appears deathly afraid of reminding people of the anti-abortion movement's decades-long history of violence and aggressive protesting. As Lauren Rankin summarized at Slate:
At Metropolitan Medical Associates in Englewood, New Jersey, where I volunteered as a clinic escort for six years, protesters would stand right by the front doors, pointing their cellphones at patients walking in while screaming “You’re a murderer!” into a bullhorn. Some of the protesters would write down the license plate numbers on the cars of my fellow clinic escorts and sometimes those of patients. I have been smacked in the face, elbowed in the ribs, and sexually harassed by anti-abortion protesters while volunteering as a clinic escort.
Nope, the MRC isn't going to bring that up at all -- those facts conflict with its narrative of pro-choice people as the real violent ones. At no point in these posts did the MRC denounce ani-abortion terrorism, let alone admit that it exists, thus demonstrating that it is, in fact, quite cool with "harassing citizens into complicity."
Kavanaugh threat distraction
The MRC needed something to distract its followers' attention from the house hearings on the Capitol riot, which it tried to insist wasn't news. It found that distraction in the form of a man who planned to shoot Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, following the leak of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, but turned himself in before he even allowed himself to pull the trigger. The MRC went into full screech mode and declared this an "assassination attempt" and "failed ... murder" -- again, despite the fact that nobody was shot by anyone and the man turned himself in before anything even happened -- and ranted that the non-right-wing media wasn't paying enough attention to this as it flooded the zone with complaints:
Speaking of memory-holing: As before, the MRC was certainly not going to mention the inconvenient fact that the anti-abortion movement has a 50-year legacy of violence and murder. Alex Christy used a June 11 post to accuse CNN of "both side-ism" -- ironically, a favorite MRC tactic -- in bringing it up:
CNN is still stuck on both sides-ism when it comes to reporting on the failed assassination attempt of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It could even be argued that New Day Weekend went beyond both side-ism on Saturday and used the attempt to highlight violence from the other side.
Actually, the MRC would be complaining that any attempt to assassinate a liberal justice got too much coverage, because liberals don't deserve coverage. But you stick with that narrative, Alex.
Remember that the MRC spent a lot of time defending Kavanaugh during his nomination process -- even using him to spew more hate at Anita Hill -- in part by denigrating the women who accused him of sexual misconduct. As a right-wing apparatchik who reliably rules in favor of conservative causes, Kavanaugh remains useful to the MRC.
Months later, the MRC was still invoking the incident to try and shut down criticism of Kavanaugh. Graham used a July 4 post to complain that late-night host Samantha Bee "lobbied the American people to 'raise hell' and disturb the peace for the justices, to never let Justice Alito eat in peace again. No one in the liberal media raised a question about whether this might incite violence -- after a man attempted to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh." Graham was apparently too busy making his italics to disclose that nobody was actually shot.
Denying link to contraception
The MRC has spent part of its time since the leak of that draft in denial that his reasoning would affect other rights threatened by the right to privacy that underpinned the ruling -- particularly Griswold v. Connecticut, which cited a right to privacy in finding there was a right to contraception, and the Obergefell decision affirming a right to same-sex marriage.
When historian Jon Meacham pointed that out, Alex Christy huffed in a May 3 post that "no state is moving to ban birth control, so the Court will not even have to address the question and the current makeup of the Court means Obergefell is almost certainly safe as well." The denials and distractions continued:
But that draft opinion officially came down largely intact at the end of June -- and Justice Clarence Thomas issued a concurring opinion specifically stating that "In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence [v. Texas, the ruling that established a right to same-sex sexual acts], and Obergefell" -- though, oddly, not Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriages like the one Thomas himself is in.
Emma Schultz tried to downplay the importance of Thomas' opinion in a June 29 post, claiming that "no other justice signed on to Thomas’s concurrence. In fact, they all signed on to opinions that said the ruling was limited to abortion." Christy did the same thing in a July 1 post: "Thomas is always writing concurrences saying certain precedents are wrong and should be reversed, but no other justice joined him on this one."
Christy complained in a July 12 post that a news report "played up ill-founded fears that birth control is next," but didn't mention Thomas' opinion suggesting such fears are quite founded.
Summer intern Michael Ippolito took a different approach: When Meghan Markle expressed concern about "the future of same-sex marriage, contraception access, and many fundamental rights to privacy," he huffed that she was trying to "stoke fears about the potential to overturn lousy court decisions."
In fact, Missouri did, in fact, outlaw some forms of birth control and other states are considering doing the same -- putting the lie to the MRC's claim that nobody's considering outlawing contraception.
The MRC, it seems, can't quite escape reality when making its biased proclamations.
Kevin Tober grumbled in a July 6 post about a different side issue:
On Wednesday night's edition of NBC Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt and technology correspondent Jake Ward needlessly attempted to scare their viewers by falsely claiming that state governments might use the data from women's period tracking apps against them to suggest they received an abortion.
Tober didn't mention that his MRC co-workers are quite interested in creating an Orwellian surveillance state (that would also presumably include data monitoring) in which pregnant women would be tracked lest they try to cross state lines to get an abortion.
Interracial marriage and Thomas
Ironically, after the leak of the Roe opinion, the MRC also went after against those who argued that the decision's reasoning put interracial marriage in danger.
Tober raged in a May 3 post that an MSNBC guest "despicably compared overturning Roe and leaving abortion up to the states to states banning interracial marriage,: though he didn't explain why it wouldn't. In a May 10 post, Mark Finkelstein complained that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough "repeatedly argued that if the Alito opinion is adopted, it can be used to undo a variety of other Supreme Court rulings. In particular, in addition to rulings striking down restrictions on contraception, and upholding gay marriage, Scarborough thrice cited the case of Loving v. Virginia, in which the Court struck down Virginia's law outlawing interracial marriage," huffing in response: "It is inconceivable that any state would pass such a law. And surely if one did, it would be struck down by lower federal courts. If it ever did reach the Supreme Court, it is overwhelmingly likely that the Court would affirm the opinion of the lower courts, particularly given the Alito language cited above." Finkelstein didn't explain why that such a thing would be "inconceivable."
The MRC was so protective of Thomas after his extreme concurring opinion became public that a June 25 post by Scott Whitlock complained that one newscast was "lingering on a pro-abortion protest poster reading: “[Clarence] Thomas is a treasonous turd.” Whitlock omitted the context of Thomas demanding that numerous rights be withdrawn.
In the wake of Thomas' concurring opinion, the MRC had to make the same argument it made regarding the contraception argument: that Thomas' desires mean nothing. A July 21 post by Christy complained that "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah "absurdly accused the GOP of opposing interracial marriage," even though he cited how Republicans voted against a bill that would codify interracial marriage as well as same-sex marriage and claimed that Roe involves the right of privacy:
That is only partly correct. Griswold and contraception are based off the right to privacy, but Loving and Obergefell are equal protection cases. While there is no movement in any legislature to overturn any of those three cases, Noah still declared “Which is why Democrats are trying to learn their lesson and protect those rights before Clarence Thomas gets to them.”
Fondacaro similarly made the personal-bias argument in a July 20 post complaining that "The View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg "outrageously suggested Justice Clarence Thomas was leading the U.S. Supreme Court in a charge to overturn Loving v. Virginia and abolish interracial marriage (despite the fact he’s in an interracial marriage)," adding: "At no point did she care to explain why Thomas would want to abolish interracial marriages while being in on himself. Is she suggesting Thomas is making a long contrived play at a divorce?"
Clay Waters followed in a July 23 post attacking a New York Times reporter for "bizarrely suggesting that interracial marriage was also in danger": "Tell that to the liberal media elite’s current Enemy No.1, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and his wife Ginny." Waters didn't mention that it was Thomas who put the idea in play by excluding Loving from his list of laws he wants overturned.
Tober spent a July 20 post complaining that MSNBC host Chris Hayes "claimed, without evidence, that the Supreme Court signaled in the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson case that the decision would create a precedent for repealing the right to same-sex marriage, contraception or even interracial marriage," whining that "Hayes took a concurring opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas and ran with it, despite the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito in such plain English that even an MSNBC host could understand that" the anti-Roe ruling applied only to Roe -- never mind that Thomas clearly thinks differently." Which, of course, means little if one concurring justice desperately wants to create a legal justification to overturn those laws -- and is exhibiting obvious bias by excluding scrutiny of a law that applies directly to him.