Bill Frist Calls Out NPR's Michel Martin for Loaded Abortion Questions

April 29th, 2020 4:12 PM

On Monday's Amanpour & Co. on PBS and CNN International, the program showed a pre-recorded interview between NPR weekend anchor Michel Martin and former Republican Senator Bill Frist in which Martin tried to suggest hypocrisy on the part of pro-life Republicans who have pushed to reopen some states during the pandemic.

Frist bristled at her attempt to link the pandemic to abortion and scolded her for doing so: "You can go to abortion and talk about -- make it political -- I'm not going to go there -- you can try to force it there."

As the two discussed the issue of when and how states should reopen, Martin set up her first question related to abortion: "One cannot help but notice that the political figures that are pushing most aggressively for states to reopen -- in some cases, have declined to even issue state-at-home orders -- are Republican governors."

After noting that infections and deaths are still increasing in those states, she added:



MICHEL MARTIN: I cannot help but notice that some of these states are also the states that have some of the most restrictive abortion policies in the country, the argument there being that this is their duty to protect vulnerable life. How is this pro-life? How is this consistent with those principles to be opening states when people are still dying?

As he began his response, former Senator Frist pushed back on her loaded question:

BILL FRIST, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Michel, I think a couple of things. I don't throw this straight to the political world, and I'm part of the political world, and, as you know, I've run the Republican Senatorial Committee -- and I've been out of it a long time -- and so I do not go straight to issues like abortion when we're talking about this. So let me tell you the way that I look at it, and we can go back and answer your question.

Frist argued that, contrary to its portrayal in the media, Tennessee Republican Governor Lee's plan to reopen his state would allow urban areas to control whether they wish to reopen while rural areas would likely be in a better position to begin lifting the controls. Martin brought up abortion again in one of her followup questions:



MARTIN: But the reality of it is that some places, political figures -- state lawmakers -- political activists are, in fact, organizing these protests demanding that the states reopen. I mean, the fact is, politics is the means by which government happens, and government is obviously a significant presence in all of our lives. Why is this happening? why is it that people who otherwise consider themselves, as I understand it, pro-life, are pushing to reopen states when vulnerable people could die as a consequence? You tell me: Why is that happening?

The former Senator again pushed back as he began his response:

BILL FRIST, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Michel, you know, you ask the question and you can frame it politically, but I'm just going to say I'm a Republican -- I'm from a Southern state -- I'm from a Southern city -- I believe in data -- I want to protect lives. I do think the point is, as you come back to life and life issues -- I don't think -- you can go to abortion and talk about -- make it political -- I'm not going to go there -- you can try to force it there.

Frist went on to argue that leaving the economy closed for too long -- as in until there is an effective vaccine -- would also cost many lives, and that there is an interest in trying to find an acceptable way to reopen the economy before then.