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August 10, 2005
CNN, Keeping Their Viewers (Mis)Informed (Updated & Bumped)

The controversy over NARAL's advertisement opposing the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court may not do the damage that the pro-abortion lobbying group desired, but it may well bury what's left of CNN's credibility. After taking a beating today when the nonpartisan site Factcheck.org called its claims that Roberts supported violence against women "false" and "especially misleading", NARAL still managed to sell the advertisement to a television channel -- and not just any TV station, but supposedly truth-based CNN, according to the Drudge Report:

CNN has reviewed and agreed to run a controversial ad produced by a pro-abortion groups that falsely accuses Supreme Court nominee John Roberts of filing legal papers supporting a convicted abortion clinic bomber, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

The news network has agreed to a $125,000 ad buy from NARAL for a commercial which depicts a bombed out 1998 Birmingham, AL abortion clinic. The Birmingham clinic was bombed seven years after Roberts signed the legal briefing the ad question!

That just starts the smear, according to the Annenberg group Factcheck, which denounces the ad in no uncertain terms:

An abortion-rights group is running an attack ad accusing Supreme Court nominee John Roberts of filing legal papers supporting . . . a convicted clinic bomber and of having an ideology that leads him to excuse violence against other Americans It shows images of a bombed clinic in Birmingham , Alabama .

The ad is false.

And the ad misleads when it says Roberts supported a clinic bomber. It is true that Roberts sided with the bomber and many other defendants in a civil case, but the case didn't deal with bombing at all. Roberts argued that abortion clinics who brought the suit had no right use an 1871 federal anti-discrimination statute against anti-abortion protesters who tried to blockade clinics. Eventually a 6-3 majority of the Supreme Court agreed, too. Roberts argued that blockades were already illegal under state law.

The images used in the ad are especially misleading. The pictures are of a clinic bombing that happened nearly seven years after Roberts signed the legal brief in question.

NARAL still insists that its advertisement is accurate. However, Factcheck provides a transcript right on its page which it refutes in almost every sentence contained in the ad. Read all of the Factcheck post in order to see just how dishonest NARAL got in its smear campaign.

And CNN now wants to run the ad for NARAL. That tells you how much CNN values their own credibility.

More in a moment. I'm going on the Hugh Hewitt show to discuss this.

UPDATE: Carol Platt Liebau and Peter Robinson filled in for Hugh this week, and we discussed what CNN could do to avoid the inevitable backlash it will suffer from running an ad so filled with falsehoods and smears. My prediction will be that CNN sees the outrage this ad has generated and reconsiders. However, it will issue a press release saying that Drudge's report was premature and that CNN did not agree to the ad sale at all.

If CNN runs this ad after the easy refutation on display at Factcheck, the remaining shreds of credibility they retain will dissipate, revealing themselves to be nothing but shills for the Left.

UPDATE II: I missed this in the Post article:

The NARAL ad, set to begin airing tomorrow on local channels in Maine and Rhode Island and nationally on the CNN and Fox News cable networks, features Emily Lyons, a clinic director who was badly injured when a bomb exploded at her clinic in Birmingham in 1998.

Shame, shame, shame on Fox News as well. What are they trying to prove -- that they can get as corrupt as CNN?

UPDATE III and BUMP: Radioblogger has the transcript of my appearance on Hugh Hewitt's show last night. Also, regarding Fox News, I'm hearing that Fox has NOT sold national advertising time to NARAL for this ad, but that individual Fox Broadcasting outlets have done so in a few markets. These broadcast outlets have agreed to air the smear spot, but not their networks:

Bangor
WABI CBS
WLBZ NBC
WVII ABC

Portland
WCSH NBC
WGME CBS
WPFO FOX

Presque Isle
WAGM CBS

Providence
WPRI CBS
WNAC FOX

Notice that NARAL appears to target Maine and Rhode Island. It looks like an attempt to persuade Lincoln Chaffee, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe to abandon Roberts.

UPDATE IV: Radioblogger has the official CNN response:

Ms. Goldberg sent me an e-mail with CNN's statement regarding the decision to air the NARAL spot. Here it is:

CNN accepts advocacy advertising from responsible groups from across the political spectrum who wish to express their views and their opinions about issues of public importance. So that viewers can further research the claims being made within the ads, the messages must identify the name of the sponsoring organizations, usually by displaying a website address.

Within CNN news programs, the more prominent and newsworthy advocacy advertisements will be reported on, fact checked and debated.

They aren't as smart as I thought they were. Perhaps they figure to pick up some respect for not backing away from NARAL, but as Duane asks, just how can one square the qualifier "responsible" with the people who produced this smear of an ad?

UPDATE V and BUMP TO TOP AGAIN: The Media Blog at NRO confirms what I heard this morning -- that Fox did not sell any airtime to NARAL:

A Fox News spokesman just told me, "[NARAL] actually never approached us for a buy. Youll see a correction in the Washington Post tomorrow." So Fox News will not be running the false ad. However, CNN seems to be supplementing its "this ad is not totally outrageous" defense with a soupon of "everyone is doing it." Neither defense holds up.

Ken Mehlman appeared on the new Situation Room to blast the advertisement, Media Blog reports. I'll have to double-check the transcripts later, even if Abbi Tatton and Jackie Schechner didn't mention this post (read MB's entire post to see why I say that!).

UPDATE VI: MB@NRO followed up with Dan Balz, who wrote the Washington Post piece. He told MB that his source on the Fox buy was ... NARAL. So much for being a "responsible" group, although the Washington Post certainly is -- Balz promises a correction in tomorrow's edition.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 10, 2005 5:25 PM

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