Fact Checking PolitiFact on Abortion: Mostly False

National   |   Luis Zaffirini   |   May 14, 2012   |   4:52PM   |   Washington, DC

On Tuesday, May 8, National Right to Life Committee issued a press release (found here) with the headline: “Obama White House recognizes ‘baby that has not yet been born’ for White House security purposes, but tolerates legal abortion to moment of birth in District of Columbia.”

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This release was published in response to a newsletter circulated by the White House Visitors Office which explained “how to enter security information for a baby that has not yet been born.”

Subsequently, the website PolitiFact.com, which claims “to help you find the truth in politics,” reviewed NRLC’s press release and issued it a “Mostly False” score on its “Truth-O-Meter.”  Their article may be found here. This site describes a “Mostly False” score in this way: “The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.”

Unfortunately, the claims that PolitiFact.com found misleading were statements that PolitiFact itself constructed and then attributed to NRLC.  In other words, PolitiFact in effect put words into NRLC’s mouth, and then issued a judgment that NRLC’s statement was “mostly false.”

In response to the PolitiFact essay, NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson issued the following rebuttal:

I note that Molly Moorhead of PolitiFact.com (a leading vendor of ever-more pretentious, ever-more tendentious “fact checking”) has imposed on the National Right to Life press release a construction that goes well beyond the plain language of the release — and then she declared her own construction, attributed to NRLC, to be “mostly false.” Nice work if you can get it.

Moorhead wrote, “The National Right to Life Committee headline suggested that fetuses were being screened for security at the White House gate.” She also wrote, “But is the Right to Life Committee correct . . . In other words, does a pregnant woman count as two at the White House?” [italics added for emphasis] Yet these phrases, attributed to NRLC, appear nowhere in the NRLC statement, nor are they implied, nor do they reflect anything I said (or thought) during the short interview that Moorhead conducted with me. Our release says what it says, not what Moorhead imagines we “suggested.” You can read the entire NRLC release here.

How can it be “mostly false” for us to say that the White House is collecting the data on the “baby that has not yet been born” (the actual White House term) “for security purposes” (our term), when the White House newsletter itself says, “We have received a number of calls regarding how to enter security information for a baby that has not yet been born,” then goes on to instruct, “The baby’s security information should be entered as follows . . .,” and then requests various specifics, including the unborn baby’s sex when known. [italics added for emphasis] Since the White House twice said that the information on the baby is “security information,” how can it be false to say it is information “for . . . security purposes”?

We didn’t say that the White House Visitors office counted a pregnant visitor as two people, but rather, made the point that the White House recognizes the “baby” as a family member prior to birth, “for purposes of providing security within the White House,” but not for purposes of establishing abortion policy for the District of Columbia, an exclusively federal jurisdiction. Moorhead apparently went to all of that re-write work as part of a studied effort to miss our point. I wonder why?

While we said nothing whatever to suggest that “fetuses were being screened for security at the White House gate” (one of Malloy’s imaginative extrapolations, attributed to us), we were accurate in asserting that the bill mentioned in our release (H.R. 3803) would, as we understand it, “provide for the security of the unborn child immediately outside of the White House gates, as well as inside.” The White House is entirely within the District of Columbia, see?

Finally, Moorhead conflates NRLC’s statement with entirely independent commentaries on the White House newsletter by the Washington Times and Creative Minority Report. As a rhetorical tactic this is too shoddy to require any further commentary. As journalism . . . well, it is not journalism.

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The District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803), the bill that figured prominently in the May 8 NRLC release (but not in the PolitiFact rewrite), will be the subject of a public hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on May 17, 2012.  For more information on the status of this important legislation, click here.