Text ANDREA for Bias: MSNBC’s Mitchell Plugs Planned Parenthood Campaign On Air

Andrea Mitchell devoted three minutes of the July 7 edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports to assist Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards in promoting the abortion-clinic chain’s latest publicity gimmick.

What’s more, instead of inviting a conservative pundit on to rebut the guest or perhaps attempting an unbiased, tough-but-fair interview in the first place, Mitchell tag-teamed with Richards in denouncing the conservative wing of the Court – and logic would dictate, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer as well. [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]

Mitchell hyped Justice Sotomayor’s “furious dissent,” to the Court having granted a preliminary injunction in Wheaton College v. Sebelius, complaining that “[i]t doesn’t seem to make sense” and “was the complete reversal of what they just ruled.”  Richards replied that the portrayal of the Hobby Lobby ruling as a “very narrow decision” is now proving to be “absolutely not true.”

That’s convenient alarmist spin for the “war on women” network, but it’s fundamentally not true.

All that the preliminary injunction does is prevent the government from requiring Wheaton College from signing off on a government form that it insists is in and of itself a violation of its religious conscience. As Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog explains, it’s pretty straightforward and in no way “denies” birth control to employees at Wheaton

Here, in simpler form, is what the Court’s new order required:

First, the college need not file a form prescribed by the government to claim the accommodation that would shift the legal duty to its insurer or plan administrator to provide the actual birth control services.  The college objected even to filing that form, saying it put the college into the middle of assuring access to those services.

Second, the college need only write a letter to the government to claim an exemption.

Third, since the college has already written and sent such a letter, that is enough to block the government from enforcing the mandate in any way against the college.

Fourth, the order declared that it was not intended to affect “the ability of the [college's] employees and students to obtain, without cost, the full range of contraceptives [approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration].”

And, finally, to make it possible for that access to remain, the Court said the government may rely on the college’s letter to the government as the mechanism for facilitating the access to the birth control services.  There is nothing in existing government regulations that allows such a letter instead of the government form, and nothing in those regulations that says such a letter is enough to guarantee access to birth control.  But the Court order appears to be, in effect, a rewrite of those regulations.

Earlier in the segment, Richards availed herself the opportunity to plug Planned Parenthood’s new text-message service, urging viewers to “text us at 69866" with the word “birth control” in order to get answers to “questions about how to access birth control coverage.”

Mitchell concluded the segment by promising Richards that MSNBC would “put the phone number for people to text on our website as well and tweet it out.”

Leave it to MSNBC to shamelessly promote such an activist effort on air, leaving behind any pretense of journalistic detachment. But then again, that’s hardly surprising from a network which has Al Sharpton on its payroll.        

See transcript below:

MSNBC
Andrea Mitchell Reports
July 7, 2014
12:35 p.m. Eastern
3 minutes and 21 seconds


ANDREA MITCHELL: A double blow from the Supreme Court in its final decisions of the year created major obstacles for the contraceptive coverage under Obamacare. First, the Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that for profit family held corporations do not have to pay for contraceptive coverage but that women could find coverage by alternative payers. But three days later the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a contraceptive mandate for Wheaton College, a religiously affiliated non-profit school and denied the alternative means it had just ordered in the Hobby Lobby case three days earlier. Well that drew a furious dissent from the three women justices. I’m joined now by Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. It doesn't seem to make sense but perhaps consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. It was the complete reversal of what they had just ruled.

CECILE RICHARDS: Right, it’s been a really confusing week for women, Andrea, and I think really concerning that any woman would lose access to birth control. We decided at Planned Parenthood because of the confusion, created by these decisions, we have just launched a new ability for women to text us at 69866. Text ‘birth control’ if they have any questions about how to access birth control coverage because a lot of women are calling us wondering what in the world this all means.

MITCHELL: Justice Sotomayor wrote in a really furious dissent, “Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today. After expressly relying on the availability of the religious non-profit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates [The Religious Freedom Restoration Act] as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, retreats from that position.” And that's exactly what Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been warning about in her dissent on Monday.

RICHARDS: You’re exactly right, and that's the concern, I think this was portrayed on Monday as a very narrow decision that had, you know, was only about a couple kinds of contraception. It's absolutely not true. We now see it as wide open and in fact, the concern is now millions of women stand to lose birth control coverage. What's important to me, Andrea, that folks remember is that this not just about many women use birth control, 99% of women use birth control in this country but not just for unintended pregnancy. We’ve got half a million women in this country that use it to for -- to treat endometriosis. It's incredible to think that young women or any woman would be the victim of sexual assault, including on a college campus and not be able to get emergency contraception because of this. So, at Planned Parenthood we’re absolutely committed to make sure that every woman gets covered for contraceptives no matter where they work or where they go to school.

MITCHELL: And we should also bring up the erroneous conclusion that contraception is readily available. I think it was, frankly, Cardinal Dolan who said, well, people can get it at the convenience store. This is not something you pick up at 7-Eleven.

RICHARDS: Absolutely not. It requires a doctor's prescription. And this is the most commonly used medical coverage for women in America. And that's why it's incredible to women, everywhere and many men, that we're still fighting about birth control in 2014.

MITCHELL: Well, thank you so much, Cecile Richards. We’ll put the phone number for people to text on our website as well, and tweet it out. Thank you very much for being with us.

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.