MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Struggles With Accuracy on Stupak, Abortion Funding

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 15, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Struggles With Accuracy on Stupak, Abortion Funding

by Jack Coleman
March 15, 2010 Note: Jack Coleman has written for more than a decade for daily and weekly newspapers in southeastern Massachusetts before starting the transition to blogging and new media in 2004. He was political reporter and bureau chief at The (Brockton) Enterprise and Cape Cod Times. This column originally appeared in NewsBusters.

Rachel Maddow has to get it right eventually, what with the law of averages and all. We’ll just have to remain patient.

Latest targets of her self-righteous wrath? Congressman Bart Stupak, apostate Democrat of Michigan, for his opposition to taxpayer-funded abortion.

Here’s Maddow from her MSNBC show on Wednesday, alleging deceit by Stupak while engaging in it herself twice over —

MADDOW: One of the things that folks have not paid much attention to as they’ve been putting Bart Stupak on TV and giving him more attention than he’s ever had in his life is that Bart Stupak never seems to name this bloc of people who he supposedly represents, this bloc of Stupack-following members of Congress who he supposedly speaks for. Well, last month Congressman Stupak said it was 15 to 20 unnamed members of the House who he said had major concerns about the bill.

Footage is then shown of Stupak on Fox News from Feb. 24 —

STUPAK: … But at least to the House members I’ve talked to, probably about 15 or 20 of them in the last 24 hours, they’ve said there are other problems with this bill. MADDOW (initially echoing Stupak): Fifteen to 20 members have problems with this bill, 15 to 20, (sotto voce) don’t worry about who they are.

Operative word from Stupak’s remarks on Feb. 24 — other. As in, concerns other than abortion. Here is a fleshed-out version of what Stupak said, shorn of Maddow’s selective editing (link here for Fox segment in entirety; remarks below start at 2:07) —

BILL HEMMER: Whether it’s reconciliation or whether it’s even the language that you want, I mean, as it stands now with all these moderate Democrats saying, hey, this is not the place where we want to go right now, could it even pass in the House do you think? STUPAK: Well, despite the abortion language, no, there’s other problems with this bill. The president has tried to bridge the House and Senate bill, but at least to the House members I’ve talked to, probably about 15 or 20 of them in the last 24 hours, they’ve said there are other problems with this bill.

See what Maddow does here? She cites Stupak’s remarks from Feb. 24 as alleged evidence of his assertion that "15 to 20" House members were aligned with him in opposition to abortion language in the Senate health bill. But as my de-Maddowed retelling of Stupak’s comments makes clear, the "15 to 20" House members he referred to had concerns "other" than abortion.

The context in which Stupak spoke to Fox News is also relevant, which explains why Maddow doesn’t mention it. Feb. 24 was one day before the kabuki theater that came to be known as the Blair House summit on health care — all the more reason for Stupak to touch base with House colleagues.

Maddow suggests further deceit on Stupak’s part by implying he was hiding the identities of these 15 to 20 House members because this anti-abortion bloc is much smaller. The number is closer to four or five, Maddow tells her viewers Wednesday. How does Maddow arrive at these numbers? From a single unnamed source she identifies as a "senior House leadership aide" who came by this info after "an informal whip count." Translation: a few phone calls. (click here for full segment; 3:19 for Maddow citing source)

In the same program, Maddow accuses Stupak of more deception, this time in disputing Stupak’s assertion that the Senate health bill provides federal funding for abortion (second part of embedded video) —

MADDOW (initially referring to budget reconciliation): There’s also the increasingly awkward fact that the problem Mr. Stupak is trying to solve with his solution that can’t be done, the problem itself does not exist. Mr. Stupak keeps saying the Senate bill would subsidize abortions, right?

Footage is then shown of Stupak on "Good Morning America" on March 4 —

STUPAK: The bill that they’re using as the vehicle is the Senate bill and if you go to page 2,069 through page 2,078, you will find in there, the federal government would directly subsidize abortions … MADDOW: I love the cite-the-page-numbers trick, it sounds so authoritative, right? But if you actually go to the section of the bill that Congressman Stupak is citing, turns out that’s the part of the bill that points out that he’s lying. (reads from bill) ‘If a qualified health plan provides coverage of [abortion], the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to any [government funds] for purposes of paying for such services …"

Shall not. Shall not. Shall not subsidize abortions.

Count me as a fan of the cite-the-page-numbers trick as well. I’m especially enamored of what’s in the section of the Senate health bill immediately preceding the one cited by Maddow (follow this link for the bill; see page 2,071) The section is titled as follows, with capitalized letters in the original — "ABORTIONS FOR WHICH PUBLIC FUNDING IS ALLOWED".

As in, public funding for abortions. Once again, a la Maddow — public funding for abortions. A third time, in case she still misses it — P-U-B-L-I-C F-U-N-D-I-N-G F-O-R A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N-S.

Gee, where would Congressman Stupak get that impression?

Who knows, maybe the section cited by Maddow trumps the one I’m referring to. The bill is written in such dense legalese that only high clergy of the courts would be able to decipher it and they wouldn’t agree on the language either.

At the very least, the presence of both provisions in the legislation is a problem, regardless of how strenuously pro-abortion liberals like Maddow claim only one exists.

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