For a network claiming to be non-partisan, CNN was quite partisan on Thursday when it used a Democratic talking point to fact-check a claim made by many conservatives. Anchor Brooke Baldwin focused on a Romney campaign ad claiming, as many conservatives are, that the Obama administration is infringing on religious liberty with its contraception mandate.
"One, this article is an opinion piece," Baldwin said of a headline in the ad accusing Obama of waging "war on religion," adding that "it came out actually before the President made this compromise back in February when he compromised putting birth control mandates on insurance companies and not on religious employers, right?" That was enough for her to ask if the ad was "misleading."
Of course, what Obama called a "compromise" still led to dozens of Catholic institutions launching a massive lawsuit against the Obama administration, so Romney and conservatives still have quite a valid point when they argue that religious freedom is threatened by Obama -- despite liberal claims to the contrary.
Also, just because a headline in the ad is from an op-ed does not mean that it is misleading or wrong, and Michael Gergen's piece that Romney cited was not the only case of someone crying "war on religion." Baldwin can't simply ask if this ad is "misleading" just because it asserts an opinion that many conservatives strongly agree with.
"You don't think this ad's fair?" Baldwin pressed her guest, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Shortly afterward, she asked the congresswoman about another Romney campaign ad on welfare that CNN found dishonest. The fact that CNN lumped together a conservative opinion with an ad it found dishonest made its "fact-check" even more partisan.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on August 9 on Starting Point at 7:07 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
BROOKE BALDWIN: Politics, here we go. President Obama continues his campaign through Colorado today as Mitt Romney swings through both New York and New Jersey. And this morning Romney's campaign is unleashing this tough new attack here against the President in this new ad. What it does is it accuses him of trampling on religious freedoms with his newly-enacted birth control mandate. Roll the clip.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who shares your values?
[HEADLINE: "'Obama's Insurance Decision Declares War on Religion': San Antonio Express-News, 02.01.2012"]
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith. Mitt Romney believes that's wrong. When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?
MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential candidate: I am Mitt Romney and I approve this message.
(End Video Clip)
BALDWIN: That ad slams the President for requiring insurance companies to cover birth control even for employees of religious institutions, and Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is a Romney supporter. She is out and about in Virginia campaigning for him today. She is also a member of the "Women for Mitt" coalition. Congresswoman Blackburn, welcome and good morning to you.
Rep. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-Tenn.), Romney campaign surrogate: Good morning to you. Good to be with you.
BALDWIN: Good to have you with us. Let's just begin as we started with that ad, sort of the news of the day. And so this ad that's out today really hinges upon this headline in this San Antonio newspaper, so let me just read the headline for you. This is from the San Antonio Express-News, the headline is "Obama Insurance Decision Declares War on Religion." But I have to point out two things here. One, this article is an opinion piece. It is an op-ed in this paper, and, number two, it came out actually before the President made this compromise back in February when he compromised putting birth control mandates on insurance companies and not on religious employers, right? So given those two, we'll call them caveats, do you find this ad misleading, congresswoman?
BLACKBURN: Well, no. I think that when you look at what has transpired through HHS and the Secretary, and the steps that they have taken progressively through the ObamaCare debate – and let's go back to '09 and look at the conversations that were taking place around that bill. What they were trying to do was give more power to HHS and take it away from the states and from Congress, the elected representatives of the people.
BALDWIN: But, Congresswoman, we're talking --
BLACKBURN: – as they did this, they came up -- no, no, no, let me – well let me give you – establish the predicate. Let's establish the predicate on this. Because what you have is over 2,400 new mandates that are found in the ObamaCare bill. One of these, and it was the subject of debate in Health Care Subcommittee, in Energy and Commerce Committee, both where I sit, where I hold a seat on those committees. This was the subject of debate, great discussion. This was not going to trample on any of our religious freedoms –
BALDWIN: But Congresswoman, forgive me, but we're –
BLACKBURN: It wasn't going to force – and you were supposed to be able to keep the insurance that you liked.
BALDWIN: I know, but we're talking 2012 and we're talking about this compromise and the ad that is out today – today – this was an opinion piece. You don't think this ad's fair?
BLACKBURN: I understand that you are. But in order to look at the ad, you have to go back and look what transpired through the process and the fact that this has all been, you know, it's just like so many other things, whether it is cost of insurance going up over $2,300, whether it's cramping the access to health care, whether it is forcing religious institutions – what you've got is the federal government and the ObamaCare bill trying to limit your freedoms. It is going to increase your taxes. The Supreme Court even says it's (Inaudible). It is going to increase costs.
BALDWIN: I understand. But let me just jump in, because I hear you when you're saying it's misleading, but – I only have so much time, and I just want to get to another ad.