OK, raise your hands if you are surprised that Citizen Donald Trump appears to have had zero serious contact with the Right to Life movement, in either its conservative or progressive forms.
Ironically, the main people who know how tone-deaf he is on life issues are people who are actually in the movement. People outside the movement may actually think that Trump's verbal misadventures on MSNBC the other day raised edgy and important issues.
So here is another way of looking at this: Raise your hands if you are surprised that the Associated Press team put someone on this story who appears to have had zero contact with the pro-life movement and, thus, had no idea what that movement actually believes on issues linked to women who have had abortions?
Check out the top of this stunningly unbalanced -- the word "blind" would be a kind way of stating things -- AP report on the Trump fiasco:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Frustrated Republicans grappled with new fears about Donald Trump's impact on their party Wednesday, as the billionaire businessman's campaign rivals targeted his punitive plan for fighting abortion and extraordinary defense of his campaign manager, who police say assaulted a female reporter.
Concern rippled through Republican circles nationwide, yet few dared criticize the GOP front-runner directly when pressed, leery of confronting the man who may well lead their election ticket in November.
Their silence underscored the deep worries plaguing the party's leaders -- particularly its most prominent women -- who are growing increasingly concerned that a Trump presidential nomination could not only cost the 2016 election but also tarnish the party brand for a generation of women and young people.
"A nominee who cannot speak to women cannot win," New Hampshire party chairwoman Jennifer Horn said, though declining to rebuke Trump by name.
Wait a minute. "Silence"? "Few dared criticize" Trump when he said that women who have had abortions should face "some kind of punishment," presumably legal?
Seriously? Who didn't criticize Trump as soon as microphones came anywhere near them? Clearly the remaining GOP candidates jumped all over him on this issue. Ditto for pro-life leaders of various political and cultural stripes.
While AP seemed to have no idea what was happening, The Washington Post offered some balance, but buried the pro-life response at the very, very, very end of the story. If this story is new to you, here is the top of that story to show you one version of what Trump said:
APPLETON, Wis. -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came under fire Wednesday for saying that women should be subject to “some sort of punishment” for undergoing illegal abortions, a position that antiabortion and abortion rights groups alike emphatically denounced.
Ah, he came under fire? Yes, but who was firing at him? Why not hint at that in the lede? Back to the story:
The GOP front-runner said during a pre-taped town hall hosted by MSNBC that criminal punishments would be appropriate for women seeking abortions if the procedure were made illegal nationwide. Moderator Chris Matthews pressed Trump on the practical implications of banning abortions.
“This is not something you can dodge. If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?" Matthews said.
"The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment," Trump responded. "There has to be some form.”
The real estate mogul repeatedly stated during the interview that he is antiabortion but did not weigh in on what specific punishments women would face if abortions were illegal.
Trump quickly went into retreat mode, when it was clear that he had no idea what he was talking about. Did he really think that what he was saying represented the views of anyone in the pro-life world?
That's the big question here. Of course he was pounded by Democrats and by women's groups of all kinds. That's a crucial element of the story, but one that would not surprise the public at all. The Post, however, made these criticisms the main focus of its "war on women" template story.
But to the newspaper's credit, kind of, here is how the story ended:
... Criticism did not come exclusively from groups on the left. The Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent antiabortion group, released a statement Wednesday stressing that it does not believe women should be punished for undergoing abortions.
“We have never advocated, in any context, for the punishment of women who undergo abortion,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group’s president. “[L]et us be clear: Punishment is solely for the abortionist who profits off of the destruction of one life and the grave wounding of another.”
Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is also seeking the nomination, were both highly critical of Trump’s remarks and dismissed the idea that women who seek abortions should be punished.
"Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn't seriously thought through the issues, and he'll say anything just to get attention,” Cruz said in a statement. “On the important issue of the sanctity of life, what's far too often neglected is that being pro-life is not simply about the unborn child; it's also about the mother -- and creating a culture that respects her and embraces life.”
Now stop and think about this: If the GOP race has evolved into a showdown between Trump and Cruz, with Kasich waiting in the VP corner, then isn't the Cruz statement one of the most newsworthy angles here? What is it doing at the very end of this story, as opposed to, oh, the second or third paragraph?
It was even possible to hint at the size of this political storm in the lede, as demonstrated in USA Today, in a report that also circulated via Religion News Service.
Donald Trump sparked outrage across the ideological spectrum with a call to punish women who obtain abortions if the procedure is banned.
Later, however, Trump clarified his position, saying in a campaign statement that, if abortion is banned, “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”
And later in the report there was this:
Groups opposing abortion rights distanced themselves from Trump’s initial comments as well.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement that “We have never advocated, in any context, for the punishment of women who undergo abortion.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, also denounced Trump’s comments, saying “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion.”
Distanced? That's an odd word, one that implies the pro-life movement has actually had something to do with Trump, but now has backed away from him out of embarrassment.
Still, the mildly worded lede on this story hinted at the key fact: Pro-lifers on the left and right went ballistic after the Trump remarks. This was the rare chance to put both sides of the abortion wars -- from Feminists for Life to feminists for Hillary Clinton -- in the same lede. And where are the Catholic and mainstream evangelical voices in this coverage?
Everyone was pretty much on the same page, after this epic stumble by Trump. Did that make it into the headlines?