CNN Again Omits Part of the Story Concerning Obama’s Abortion Votes

Mary Snow, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCNN correspondent Mary Snow’s report on Monday’s The Situation Room about Barack Obama’s charge that pro-life "folks are lying" about his abortion record actually just presented both sides of the controversy without getting to the reality of the matter. The report, which was promoted as "checking the facts" by host Wolf Blitzer, also omitted how Obama’s campaign conceded on Sunday that the pro-lifers were actually accurately representing his record.

Before Snow’s report aired just before the top of the 6 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, Blitzer read two promos for it. In the first, he announced how "Barack Obama [is] in the middle of an abortion battle. Now, he's pushing back after an extraordinary claim against him. We're going to examine the record." In the second promo, Blitzer played Obama’s "lying" sound bite, and stated, "Senator Obama blasts opponents for distorting his record on abortion-related legislation. We're checking the facts."

Snow began her report by running Obama’s accusation, which he made to CBN’s David Brody in an interview on Sunday: "They have not been telling the truth, and you know, I hate to say that people are lying, but here's the situation where folks are lying." Specifically, Obama thinks that pro-lifers "have not been telling the truth" about his opposition to a 2003 Illinois state bill that contained identical language to the federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act. In a second clip, Obama charged that the bill "also... was trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade."

Later in the report, the CNN correspondent tried to summarize the debate over the Obama’s record concerning the bill: "In 2002, President Bush signed a born-alive bill into law. Obama had said he would have supported that bill. The National Right to Life Committee says the language in the bill was the same and accuses Obama of a 'four year effort to cover up his full role in killing legislation to protect born-alive survivors of abortions.' Looking at the bills, the language is similar, but the Obama camp says while there were concerns about undermining Illinois abortion law." Note that Snow’s "checking the facts" didn’t actually examine the truthfulness of either claim.

At the end of the report, Snow noted that the bill ultimately passed in 2005 and that "a provision makes clear that it does not affect existing federal or state law regarding abortion.... [Obama’s] campaign points out that that added provision in that 2005 bill was a measure he had wanted in the past." When Blitzer asked her to summarize the difference between the federal law and the Illinois proposal, she repeated Obama’s claim: "Well, 2003, the National Right to Life Committee will say the language is very similar, but what the Obama camp pointed out is that it lacked a provision to protect Roe v. Wade. That was the measure that was added two years later, so that is the explanation why the campaign said and Obama has said that he opposed that 2003 law."

This isn’t the entire story however. Both Jill Stanek and David Freddoso in his book "The Case Against Barack Obama" noted that in 2003, the bill’s sponsor proposed an amendment that contained the language of the federal law born-alive law which passed the previous year. Obama initially voted for this amendment when it came before the state senate health committee he chaired, but then voted against the bill as it was amended.

The New York Sun reported on Monday that during the Brody interview, Obama "said the federal version he supported ‘was not the bill that was presented at the state level.’" The Sun also reported that not even 24 hours after the interview, the Obama campaign on Sunday "acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law." Snow didn’t mention this detail during her report on Monday.

This isn’t the first time CNN has omitted details about Obama’s record on the born-alive legislation. Correspondent Carol Costello didn’t mention two of Obama’s votes on the bill during a report in July, and anchor Don Lemon didn’t mention the issue at all in his summary of Obama’s abortion stances on August 12. Three strikes -- you’re out, CNN.

The transcript of Blitzer’s two promos and Snow’s report from Monday’s The Situation Room:

5:08 pm EDT

WOLF BLITZER: And Barack Obama in the middle of an abortion battle. Now, he's pushing back after an extraordinary claim against him. We're going to examine the record.

5:21 pm EDT

BLTIZER: A hot button issue prompts some sharp words from Senator Barack Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Let me clarify this right now because what they...

DAVID BRODY: Because it's getting --

OBAMA: Well, and because they have not been telling the truth, and, you know, I hate to say that people are lying, but here's a situation where folks are lying.

BLITZER: Senator Obama blasts opponents for distorting his record on abortion-related legislation. We're checking the facts.

5:54 pm EDT

BLITZER: Barack Obama's clear on his support for abortion rights for women and he re-stated that position at this weekend's faith forum out in California. But he also says abortion opponents are lying about his stance when it comes to some specific legislation. Mary Snow has been working the story for us. Mary, it goes back several years. What do we know?

MARY SNOW: Well Wolf, this goes back to when Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator. Now abortion opponents, as you just mentioned, have been focusing in on a measure he opposed and they're trying to paint him as being extreme. Obama is now firing back.

SNOW (voice-over): Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama had strong words for abortion opponents leveling sharp criticism at his record. He was asked about it in an interview with a Christian broadcasting network.

Senator Barack Obama, Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee | NewsBusters.orgOBAMA: They have not been telling the truth, and you know, I hate to say that people are lying, but here's the situation where folks are lying.

SNOW: At issue: a proposed law in Illinois to protect infants who survive unsuccessful abortions. As a state senator, Obama opposed it in 2003.

OBAMA: That bill also was doing was trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade. By the way, we also had a bill -- a law already in place in Illinois that ensured life-saving treatment was given to infants.

JOHN PATTERSON, THE DAILY HERALD: Sponsors claimed that law didn't go far off enough.

SNOW: John Patterson has covered Illinois's state capital since 1996.

PATTERSON: The Democrats and other opponents of the proposal said you're going too far with this. You're interfering with a woman's right to choose.

SNOW: In 2002, President Bush signed a born-alive bill into law. Obama had said he would have supported that bill. The National Right to Life Committee says the language in the bill was the same and accuses Obama of a 'four year effort to cover up his full role in killing legislation to protect born-alive survivors of abortions.' Looking at the bills, the language is similar, but the Obama camp says while there were concerns about undermining Illinois abortion law. Those concerns didn't exist in the federal bill, since there is no federal abortion law.

In 2005, the Illinois legislature did pass a born-alive bill, but a provision makes clear that it does not affect existing federal or state law regarding abortion.

SNOW (on-camera): Now by 2005, Obama had left the state senate, but his campaign points out that that added provision in that 2005 bill was a measure he had wanted in the past. Wolf?

BLITZER: So just a recap, Mary, what is the basic difference between these two bills?

SNOW: Well, 2003, the National Right to Life Committee will say the language is very similar, but what the Obama camp pointed out is that it lacked a provision to protect Roe v. Wade. That was the measure that was added two years later, so that is the explanation why the campaign said and Obama has said that he opposed that 2003 law.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Mary Snow, working the sensitive subject for us.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center