Cable-News Coverage of Abortion Is Wrong More Often Than It’s Right

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Bill O'Reilly interviews Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden on Fox News.
Bill O'Reilly interviews Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden on Fox News.Photo: Courtesy of Fox News/Youtube/The Center for Medical Progress

Most people realize that cable-news networks aren’t totally objective, but a new study looking at the discussion of abortion shows that a network’s political bias often results in inaccuracies in reporting and statements made on air.

A study from Media Matters looked at evening or prime-time segments about abortion from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016, on the three major cable news networks — CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — and found that two networks included more anti-choice speakers than pro-choice ones, and made more inaccurate statements than accurate ones.

To do this, the researchers identified 688 segments and recorded whether the speakers publicly identified as pro-choice or anti-choice or whether they made statements that could be classified in either category.

To determine a speaker’s ideology, they assessed the person’s comments on the four most common types of misinformation spoken on TV during the study period, which were: that Planned Parenthood uses government funds to pay for abortions (no), that birth control induces abortions (nope), that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue (hard nah), and the sting videos from the Center for Medical Progress are “journalism” (sorry, no).

To the shock of literally no one, Fox News had the worst ratios of pro-lifers to pro-choicers and spewed the most misinformation, with 705 incorrect statements versus 158 correct ones. Meanwhile, CNN wasn’t as neutral (or accurate) as you might expect. MSNBC was the most accurate but had a liberal bias in terms of speakers.

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This is not good.Photo: Courtesy of Media Matters

One thing the networks did have in common: The majority of the hosts, correspondents, and guests who talked about abortion were men. That gender bias held true even when Media Matters accounted for potential hiring slants at the networks; there were still more male guests than female guests, though MSNBC was very close to equal.

Anti-choice men spreading inaccuracies about reproductive rights? Sounds a lot like Congress.