I disagreed with the socially conservative groups ‘ decision to back Trump in the 2016 election. However, I understand the case for it: One of these two candidates are going to win, so we have to choose one of them. Hillary Clinton is our enemy who hates us, and Donald Trump has promised to do some good things for us.
This can be a reasonable stance if you understand Trump is a businessman with a side hustle as a transactional politician. Trump is not someone with a burning desire to find new ways to save unborn children. He’s someone willing to give you something you want (Supreme Court Justices, executive orders, etc. in exchange for what he wants (your vote.)
The problem is that a growing number of social conservatives no longer treat Trump as a transactional politician but as a true believer who deserves absolute defense. Even people and groups that have traditionally advocated for issues more than politicians have gone all in for the Trump Administration.
One of the saddest cases of this is LifeNews.com. I’ve been reading LifeNews since it was known as the Pro-Life Infonet back in the early 2000s. It’s always been a great resource that served as a clearinghouse of valuable pro-life information. From what bills are making progress through state legislatures to stories from activists on the frontlines, LifeNews.com has been a resource I’ve turned to and time and time again for a decade and a half.
Lifenews.com writes they are “an independent news agency devoted to reporting news that affects the pro-life community.” To find that reporting in the age of Trump, you have to dig through a lot of Team Trump cheerleading that has little to nothing to do with the pro-life cause.
Three troublesome types of articles have popped on Lifenews.com over the past years that have harmed the character of the site:
Stories that Give a False Impression
It’s possible to give a false impression without speaking a false word. Take this story from January 3 headlined, “President Trump Promises to Veto Democrat Shutdown Bill That Funds Planned Parenthood.”
President Trump has promised to veto the Democrats’ bill to open the government. The bill does fund Planned Parenthood. However, the linking of the two facts implies President Trump is refusing to sign the bill over Planned Parenthood funding. Those who read the headline or even manage to read the story will think the government shutdown fight is about the President’s steadfast defense of innocent human life.
The fact that the House bill contains language that undermines the administration’s Mexico City policy against international abortion funding is on the laundry list of the Administration’s objections, but the President refuses to sign the Democrat’s funding bill, not because of abortion, but because it doesn’t fund his border security policies.
Many grassroots pro-lifers have complained that, despite promises to defund Planned Parenthood, the President continued to send the abortion behemoth hundreds of millions of dollars. Lifenews has been repeatedly ready to rush to the President’s defense on Twitter, most recently in a thread with conservative radio host Shannon Joy who pointed out Trump has signed bills that have provided $1.5 billion in funding to Planned Parenthood during his time in office.
Transforming Trump Stories Into Pro-Life Stories
If Lifenews kept to limiting itself to stories related solidly to pro-life issues, it would have very little to say about the Trump Administration. But they find ways to expand their coverage while trying to ostensibly still cover the abortion issue.
If you think a freshman California Congresswoman issuing a profane call to impeach President Trump has nothing to do with the pro-life cause, you’d be right. However, Lifenews adds to the headline that the Congresswoman is pro-abortion. Therefore, according to their current editorial standards, it transforms into vital news for the pro-life movement.
In some cases, they don’t bother with the headline. One recent story featured Chelsea Handler and triumphant talking smack about Trump and gloating over the new Democratic house. This becomes pro-life news only because the writer says, “Only in TDS [Trump Derangement Syndrome] town could a corrupt, abortion-loving politician bring the same joy that Santa brings to millions of children.”
Joining the Right-wing Petty Outrage Culture
Lifenews.com’s new focus hasn’t just included making issues relevant to defending Trump, but also fuel for the outrage machine that’s meant to keep the right in a never-ending state of angst.
Take Christian Bale’s thanking Satan for giving inspiration for how he portrayed Dick Cheney. (By the way, Bale was making a mean-spirited joke suggesting the former Vice-President is like Lucifer, not a declaring his allegiance to Satan, as multiple Christian news sites suggest.) Then there’s irreligious U.S. Senator Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) refusing to be sworn in on a Bible she doesn’t believe in. These stories evidently become pro-life news by indicating that Vice-President Cheney is pro-life and that Senator Sinema is a pro-abortion activist in the headlines.
Lifenews.com has been harming its own credibility with these practices over the past few years. Leaders of the groups that focused exclusively on the pro-life cause in years gone by were more than happy to offer endorsements and election-time and praise for legislation passed. However, they didn’t dedicate themselves to the defense of ostensibly pro-life politicians on every issue or point of controversy.
It’d be tempting for pro-life groups to dedicate themselves to defending everything Reagan did when his popularity was consistently in the 60s or in the mid-2000s where President George W. Bush approval was in the seventies for nearly two years after 9/11. However, they didn’t do that. They understood that if we are ever to end the evil of abortion, we’ll need more than the support of conservative Republicans.
It is a wise realization that’s being ignored by sites like lifenews.com that seems to believe the pro-life movement should chain itself to the caboose of the Trump Train and go all-in for a President who struggles to keep his approval rating above 40%. During the 2016 campaign, he went through a three-day period where he changed his views on abortion five times. Lifenews’ Twitter feed is now littered with tweets with hashtags such as “maga2020” and “#TrumpTrain.”
Doing that is disastrous for the pro-life cause. People are turned-off by President Trump for many reasons, including his disrespect for women, with his notorious Access Hollywood statement and the fact more than a dozen women have accused the President of sexual harassment or assault. There’s also the President’s racially charged rhetoric and actions, including his disgraceful performance in Charlottesville. There, he proclaimed there were good people on both sides when one of those sides was marching with Nazi flags.
These sort of issues with Trump undercut pro-life outreach efforts when elevating Trump becomes a major focus of a pro-life news site. The effort to encourage women to be pro-life Feminists is undermined if your site insists they must become Trump -supporting feminists to be pro-life.
Arguments that minorities shouldn’t trust Planned Parenthood because of its racist history their involvement with the Ku Klux in the in the last century are undermined when you’re constantly shilling for a President with a history of racially inflammatory statements and tweets in the past four years and who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan in the last election.
Further, Lifenews’ dubious content is not only unoriginal and unnecessary, it obscures the core stories they’ve done throughout their history. The type of articles I’ve referenced could be found on hundreds of right-wing websites, but not the articles that made LifeNews what it was.
You can still find those legitimate pro-life news stories on LifeNews.com, but you have to dig to find stories of progress of pro-life legislation and court cases, stories exposing the crimes of the abortion industry, and positive stories of maternal bravery and of grassroots activists making a difference in the lives of women and their babies.
However, the new tone of the site undermines the legit stories. When you turn your outrage meter all the way up to 10 for the story of smug liberal actors acting like smug liberals at an Awards show, where does the outrage meter go when you’re reporting on an abortion doctor sexually abusing their patients? The pr-trump and trivial tone of many of their articles make it hard to take anything else the site says seriously.
As I said at the start of the piece, I can understand the transactional case for voting for Trump and thanking him when he does something praiseworthy. However, it is unreasonable to break into enthusiastic cheerleading for a troubled politician in a way that undermines your long-term mission.
Photo credit: Michael Vadon (CC-By-SA 4.0)