Fox News Sunday hosted Mike Huckabee on its panel yesterday where Chris Wallace asked him about his support for Rep. Todd Akin. Huckabee proceeded to “defend” Akin by smearing President Obama with the long-ago debunked attack on his “born alive” votes in the Illinois senate, and outlandishly calling Obama a “radical” on abortion. Even worse, nobody challenged Huckabee for such outrageous rhetoric.
As we posted last week, Mike Huckabee has been staunchly supportive of Akin in the wake of his shocking comment, “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down." So it was pretty much a given that with Huckabee on the panel – when he’s not normally there – the subject of Akin would come up. Sure enough, Wallace asked if Akin wasn’t “toxic” to Mitt Romney.
Huckabee: …My issue was that you had so many Republicans who publicly distance themselves from him over a comment he made when I think of all the Republicans who have done foolish and ridiculous things and you didn’t see that kind of backlash.
…Look, nobody likes it when someone goes out and makes a gaffe. It’s not a good thing and you have to deal with it… but you don’t wipe out a person’s entire life and career. And, you know, the point is it’s a great opportunity, I think, Chris, not to talk about Todd Akin. The real issue is let’s contrast the difference between ANY Republican – Mitt Romney, anybody – and Barack Obama’s record on abortion which is so far to the left of most Democrats. He three times as an Illinois senator voted against a bill that would require medical treatment for a baby that was born alive from a botched abortion. He supports partial-birth abortion. He wouldn’t take a stand against gender-selection abortion. That’s radical. That’s worth talking about.
Wow. There’s just so much wrong with that statement, it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s start with Obama’s “radical” record on abortion and the “born alive” legislation in Illinois. Obama’s vote on the “born alive” legislation has been the subject of many Fox News smears – even after Fox News employees Alan Colmes and Bob Beckel debunked the attacks. Huckabee is correct that Obama voted against the legislation requiring medical treatment for a baby that was born alive from a botched abortion. But his suggestion that Obama was so pro-abortion that he didn’t want babies to live is indefensible.
As PolitiFact has reported: Obama opposed "born alive" legislation in Illinois and gave several reasons for opposing the proposals. But at no time did he make the argument that infants who survived botched abortions should be killed… In fact, he said that abortion should be legal, but that children that are born should receive medical care. Obama never said that any child born prematurely can be killed or anything like that.
If anyone really wants to wade into the minutiae of his votes on this legislation, I highly recommend Eric Zorn’s detailed and balanced account. If you don’t want to take the time, I recommend his summary. The bottom line: Liberal lawmakers in Illinois feared with good reason that the legislation was a backdoor attack on abortion rights. Obama was far from the only legislator to oppose the bills he voted against and the measure was voted down by the state senate even after Obama had left and gone to the U.S. Senate. Once stronger abortion-rights protection was inserted (over the objections of the bill’s original proponents), it passed easily in Illinois. However, Obama was already a United States senator by then and did not vote. Zorn concludes: “I don't think the record comes close to supporting the frenzied attacks on him as a backer of 'infanticide' or even suggesting that he's out of the mainstream of supporters of abortion rights. That bill, that legislation, failed over and over in the Illinois General Assembly, most often without any input from Obama.”
Huckabee seems to have forgotten that Hillary Clinton attacked Obama for not being strong enough in his pro-choice stance during their competition for the presidential nomination. If Obama is so radical on abortion, I dare Huckabee to go on television and accuse her of being “beyond radical.” You can email him at Huckmail@foxnews.com with that suggeston if you like.
As for Obama supporting so-called “partial birth abortion,” (the correct medical term is "intact dilation and extraction" or “D&X”) he said on Fox News, in 2008, “I strongly believe that the state can properly restrict late-term abortions. I have said so repeatedly. All I’ve said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn’t have that.” If Huckabee didn't know that, he should have before making such an inflammatory accusation about a U.S. president on a national news network.
The accusation that Obama “wouldn’t take a stand against gender-selection abortion” is simply misleading, even assuming it’s accurate. Statistics do not indicate that the US has a problem with sex-selective abortions, as Think Progress reported a few months ago (via Jezebel). Complaining that Obama won’t take a stand against this non-problem is like accusing him of sanctioning murder because he has refused to condemn cannibalism. Although at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox News started attacking him for that, too.
But the biggest, most important problem with Huckabee’s comments is that he set up a false argument. What shocked everyone about Akin’s statement was not just the gaffe about whether or not a woman can "shut down" pregnancy after a rape but the extremist views that were intertwined. His use of the qualifier “legitimate” suggests that he believes that there are lots of cases of “illegitimate rape” where, presumably, women fraudulently or mistakenly accuse. His words reek with the notion that women who do get pregnant from a rape must have been somehow “asking for it.” And he makes it very plain that this rhetoric is his justification for supporting a no-exceptions ban on abortion.
In other words, the one with the radical views is Akin – who happens to have what looks a lot like an abortion soul brother in vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
Furthermore, Fox’s own Kirsten Powers wrote in a powerful Daily Beast column looking at the context of Akin’s remarks:
Really, Akin didn’t “misspeak” at all. He made a Kinsley gaffe: he said publicly what he really thinks, without realizing that Americans have access to biology textbooks.
So where did Akin learn this misogynist claptrap? It’s junk science that has been circulating in the anti-abortion rights movement for some time.
But rather than defend this extreme anti-abortion faction of the conservative movement, Huckabee tried to deflect attention away from it (even though, too, is a member of it) by cooking up phony ways to make Obama seem more abhorrent.
At least as disturbing as all that, in my view, was the lack of fact checking, perspective or challenge from “objective” host Wallace. Nor did he offer much opportunity to do so to either of the two Democrats on the panel: Juan Williams and, yes, Kirsten Powers. Now I’ve had my differences with Powers but she’s normally a very strong advocate on behalf of women who has the courage of her convictions plenty of other Fox News contributors don’t. Whatever the reason for the lack of outcry, it’s yet another example of Fox News mainstreaming extremist views against Obama without concern for their basis in reality. And it's hard to think of another word to describe Fox's tactics other than "radical."
Watch out American womanhood! I have standards!!!
The Akin comments are reprehensible for exactly the reasoning Powers gave. They are not a “gaffe” like, for example, Obama talking about visiting 57 states or mispronouncing “corpsman”. Those are gaffes, and politicians who speak publicly are lucky if they only have a handful of those in their history. (Kennedy’s “I am a jelly donut” is another good one.) Akin’s comments indicate his thinking about the issue at hand. And that’s the part that the right wing is desperate to divert people from seeing.
So Huckabee brings up a series of political votes that were done in Illinois as an attempt to “gotcha” the Democrats some years ago. That attempt was failed then, and it continues to fail today. Huckabee’s return to that argument shows that either he has forgotten his position is untenable, or he’s hoping his viewers have. So he’s either ignorant of the facts or is deliberately trying to obscure them. He can choose whether this is negligence or truly bad intent on his part.
Either way, the polls are showing that Romney is not making the inroads he must in order to actually have a chance to win this election. Instead, we’re likely to be seeing the election play out just as it looks today – with Obama between 50 and 55% of the popular vote, and somewhere around 300 EC votes. Which will leave Hannity, Huckabee, O’Reilly and the rest of the bunch at Fox to bluster about it for months afterward. I wouldn’t be surprised if they allege fraud. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they blamed both the media and the voters with whom they disagree.
I’ve always found it strange that the right wing assumes that voters who don’t agree with them are somehow un-American. So by exercising their right to vote in a manner that upholds their opinions, they are somehow acting against the principles they are actually upholding. Does the right wing think that only GOP voters are “true” voters?