Local Colorado TV News Stations Fact Check Ads Attacking Romney’s Anti-Choice Positions


If you turn on your TV in Colorado, you’re blasted with political advertisements, and to their credit, and to the surprise of many, Denver’s local TV stations have assigned reporters to fact check a lot of the ads.

Local TV news in America isn’t known for wonky coverage of politics, but the fact checking by the local outlets in Colorado shows that substantive political coverage can be popular. In fact, local TV news reporters say their fact-check stories get top ratings, among political stories aired.

Here’s how two local stations analyzed ads attacking Mitt Romney’s positions on a women’s right to choose.

The two ads, analyzed by Channel 7′s (ABC) Marshall Zelinger and Channel 4 (CBS) Shaud Boyd last month, were slightly different, but they mostly made the same allegations.

AD: “Mitt Romney opposes requiring insurance coverage for contraception.”

CBS4 Reality Check (scroll down to abortion ad): TRUE

Channel 7 Truth Tracker: TRUE

My take: Both stations got it right.

AD: “Romney supports overturning Roe Vs. Wade.”

CBS4 Reality Check: TRUE

Channel 7 Truth Tracker: TRUE

My take: Both stations got it right.

AD: Romney would cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood

CBS4 Reality Check: TRUE

Channel 7 Truth Tracker: This fact wasn’t included in the ad checked by Channel 7.

My take. Channel 4 got it right.

AD: “Romney backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even cases of rape and incest.”

CBS4 Reality Check: MISLEADING

Channel 7 Truth Tracker: MISLEADING (but it also found the “even-cases-of rape-and-incest” part to be “MOSTLY UNTRUE”)

My take: First, both Channels 7 and 4 point out that there was not an actual bill. The ad shows a clip of Romney saying he’d back a bill outlawing “all abortions,” if, hypothetically, such a bill came to his desk. That’s not enough to call the statement misleading, more like “MOSTLY TRUE.”

But the addition of the phrase “even cases of rape and incest” makes the statement more complicated. Channel 7 separated out this phrase and deemed it “MOSTLY FALSE,” arguing that even though the hyopothetical bill would have banned “all abortions,” the bill didn’t mention rape and incest specifically.

In addition, both Channels 4 and 7 aired video of Romney saying that he supports abortion in the case of rape and incest.

But Romney told Mike Huckabee just last last year that he “absolutely” would have supported an amendment to the Massachusetts’ consitution defining life as beginning at conception, otherwize known as the zygote or fertilized-egg stage. (Video here at 6:25)

And if you define life as such, like personhood backers do, and you do so in a state constitution, you give legal protections to zygotes created as a result of rape. So it’s fair to conclude that Romney opposes abortion for rape victims, though obviously it’s an Olympic flip from what he’s said elsewhere.

Romney also told Huckabee:

“Would it be wonderful if everybody in the country agreed with you and me that life begins at conception, that there’s a sanctity of life that’s part of a civilized society, and that we’re all going to agree that we’re not going to have legal abortion in the county? That would be great.” (Video here at 8:15)

Against this backdrop of Romney’s own dueling positions, I don’t understand how Channel 7 could conclude that it’s mostly false to say that Romney opposes abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. It could be true or false. Take your pick.

You have to conclude, like Channel 4 did, that Romney’s obviously a flip flopper on abortion. And you certainly can’t say it’s untrue for Obama to tell us Romney opposes all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

So Channel 4′s take-away comment, which it calls the “bottom line,” hit the mark:

“The ad says women, a key voting bloc, should be troubled by Mitt Romney’s position on abortion. And they should, because it’s changed so many times. Mitt Romney brought this one on himself.”

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